Monte Cristo Spinach Sandwiches

Divide mustard, cheese, ham/turkey, and spinach evenly between each of two bread slices; cover each with a bread slice. Whisk together eggs and milk in a medium bowl.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Dip sandwiches in milk mixture; transfer to skillet, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve with raspberry jam or cranberry conserve.

*NOTE: I’ve added spinach to the Real Simple recipe. Again, always trying to up my veggie intake in my meals…

Cranberry, Turkey, and Sharp Cheddar Bites

FullSizeRenderHeading into New Year’s Eve celebrations, this tart and tasty cranberry, turkey, and cheese concoction is a quick fix to have in your kitchen recipe arsenal—IF you have the cranberry conserve made ahead of time! Originally posted about a year ago, the conserve goes together in about 30 minutes, so isn’t a huge culinary black hole. In that post, I also talk about a tasty sandwich option using the cranberry conserve.

But we’re talking about quick appetizers here, so let’s move on! You’re basically making a mini open-faced sandwich, with either deli turkey (or leftover holiday bird) or ham, a slice of provolone, Swiss, or white sharp cheddar cheese, green apple, and a dollop of the cranberry conserve. That’s it! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezey, right? The picture here shows these with “Food Should Be Good” gluten-free corn tortilla/crackers from Costco. But I’ve also make these on sour dough bread or those mini rye bread squares, when I’m not serving a gluten-free crowd. (You know, the ones your Mom used to buy only during holidays for housing the abundant cream cheese spreads…)

Speaking of abundant cream cheese, the nice thing about these appetizers is that they do NOT start with a brick of Philadelphia cream cheese—and that’s rare in nibbles offered on holiday tables.

Serves as many as you want!

Layer the following ingredients and place on serving platter:

  • Food Should Be Good Corn Tortilla Chips/Crackers, sour dough bread, or mini rye bread squares
  • Sliced deli turkey or ham
  • Sliced Provolone, Swiss, or extra sharp white cheddar cheese
  • Green apple, sliced thin (do not peel)
  • 1 half-pint jar of cranberry conserve

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.

Cranberry Pecan Curried Rice

FullSizeRender-4The combo of sweet craisins and savory ingredients like curry and garlic give this recipe a blend of flavors that really please the palate. It has the versatility to be a main dish if you want to stir in some chopped rotisserie chicken, a suggestion from others who’ve tried this recipe found on foodfolksandfun.net. I’ve not had the fresh parsley on hand (the three times I’ve made this dish already!), so I’ve used dried herbs instead, which worked fine. We’ve had this gluten-free treat on weeknights with ham, and with turkey, and it would go perfectly with pork chops or roast beef as well. Even though it goes together quick enough to make it an after-work-wonder, it’s going to make an appearance at some holiday dinners in the weeks to come. (Extended family, consider yourself warned!) I’m sure it’ll be gobbled up at those gatherings with gusto as well.

Serves 6-8

3½ cups chicken broth
2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
¾ cups chopped pecans
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup craisins (dried cranberries)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
¼ cup water

In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add rice and butter and return to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While rice is cooking, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onion, and sauté until onions are translucent. Add garlic and pecans, and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add curry, ginger, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat all ingredients with spices. Cook another minute or two to toast spices. Add fluffed, cooked rice, craisins, parsley, and water. Stir to combine, until all rice is yellowed from curry. Transfer to serving bowl, and serve immediately, or place in airtight container and refrigerate. Reheat in microwave or in frying pan to serve.

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.

Cranberry Pecan Bars

IMG_1157A pop of rich red makes these cranberry bars look special enough for company, yet these sweet-tart treats are easy enough to make any old day. With cranberries showing up in grocery stores soon, I thought I’d share this delicious recipe I found on www.food.com, sent in by Wisconsinite and cranberry-lover Bonnie Young. They use mostly kitchen staples, and mix up in just a few minutes. I found they work better with frozen cranberries, as the fresh tend to mush and bleed into the batter and that makes them not so pretty. But the frozen berries make the batter very stiff, so you have to pat (or smash, if that’s more your mood) it into the pan with a spatula. Worth the effort though—the result is a deliciously chewy cake-like bar with just enough tang to keep you wanting more.

Makes 12-15 bars

½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped pecans
2 cups frozen cranberries
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Butter a 9″x13″ baking dish and set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream butter. Add eggs and cream again. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat again. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to creamed butter and sugar mixture. Stir in nuts with large wooden spoon until combined. Fold in cranberries. Press batter into prepared baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until top of bars are light golden brown. (Bars may not appear to be cooked all the way through when removed from oven, but they will set up as they cool.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar and let cool to room temp before cutting with very sharp knife.

(Shout out to Monique Kleinhuizen, who brought me a huge bag of fresh cranberries—the size of grapes—from a cranberry festival her family attended in Wisconsin. Used them in the batch of bars pictures here. Awesome berries!!!)