Nette’s Cranberry Salsa

FullSizeRender-2Tomato salsa is so last year! This cranberry salsa has some kick and some sass, just like my neighbor Nette—which is fitting, since I got this recipe from her. You’ll need a food processor or blender to make it, but if you’ve got the tools, it’s a snap to whip up. If you serve it with corn tortilla chips, it’s both gluten free AND dairy free—how many appetizers can make that claim? Not many! At least not the appetizers found on most midwestern buffets in the cold winter months. And if you need more incentive to try this recipe, take note that cranberries are higher in antioxidants than the highly-acclaimed blueberry, and offer 24% of your daily allowance of vitamin C. So stick THAT on your chip and eat it. (Smiley face…)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into slices
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup chopped red onion
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and membranes removed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño (like Mrs. Renfro’s brand)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine apple, sugar, onion, lime zest and juice, fresh and pickled jalapeño, and cilantro in a food processor or blender and pulse several times. Add cranberries and pulse until grainy. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Ginger Crisps with Cranberry Goat Cheese, Pear, and Pepitas

IMG_1298It takes longer to say the name of these delicious, sweet and savory appetizers than it takes to make them. With only 4 ingredients (see picture below) and no cooking or baking required, you can churn these out in a snap, as long as you’ve got the right stuff on hand. Purchased ginger thins are the base, and they can be found at a variety of stores. I used to only be able to find Anna’s Ginger Thins at high end grocery stores like Lund’s, Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s. While they still carry these, you can also find them at Walmart or even Walgreen’s right now. (I believe those two places only carry them seasonly, so if you’ve got a craving for these appetizers in the spring or summer, check at the aforementioned places.) Trader Joe’s carries something called “Triple Ginger Cookie Thins” and are about $4 per box. Again, they only carry them when people are gaga for ginger and pumpkin flavors. Not sure that the “triple ginger” claim makes them taste any different than the other brands… But I think the best value can be found at IKEA, where they sell a large box of Pepparkakor for $7.99, and the cookie/crackers are bigger and sturdier, like any good Swede should be.

FullSizeRenderThe other seasonal ingredient you need is a small log of cranberry goat cheese. Goat cheese straight up is a little too pungent for my taste, but with the addition of the sweetened cranberries, it’s perfect on these little appetizers. They sell this at just about any grocery store in the fall and winter—high end to Trader Joe’s. I even found a brand called Celebriti’s Cranberry Goat Cheese at Costco this year. For the fruit, you can use any type of pear for this recipe (Bartlett, Anjou, etc.), but the Red Anjou looks especially festive on top. 

The last ingredient is a sprinkling of tasty little pepitas, roasted Mexican pumpkin seeds. These are sold in bulk at just about any grocery store, or pre-packaged at the high-end grocery stores. They taste similar to a sunflower seed, but you can eat the greenish shell after they’ve been roasted and salted.

Whew!!! That enough info for you? Believe me, it’s worth the effort to seek out these special ingredients. These little taste treats are a perfect way to start anything—especially a New Year!

Serves 8-10

Rating: Super Easy

1 package Anna’s Ginger Thins, Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookie Thins, or IKEA’s Pepparkakor
1 (8 to 11 ounce) package cranberry goat cheese, at room temperature*
2 Red Anjou pears, cored and sliced
¼ to ½ cup pepitas

Spread goat cheese on ginger thins. Top with slide of pear and a sprinkling of pepitas. Arrange on a platter and serve.

*NOTE: It’s easier to spread the cheese and not break the crackers if it’s room temp. You can make these with goat cheese straight from the frig, but you may have a few more broken cookie fatalities.

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.