CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN #3 — CRANBERRIES

Cranberries!  Big, bouncy, bright red cranberries!

cranberry harvest  oceanspray.com

Harvested between mid-September and mid-November, cranberries are at their peak right now for color and flavor.  Their ruby red color makes them a favorite for holiday decorating, cooking, and baking.

A cranberry wreath looks stunning anywhere you hang it.  I originally saw the idea about 20 years ago in a Martha Stewart publication, and you can see her making one here.  (Spoiler alert:  the video is really boring, and her wreath turns out beautifully.  Doh.).  Mindy at Our Humble Abode declares making a cranberry wreath “the dumbest idea ever,” but I think her wreath is gorgeous and entirely worth the 1-1/2 hours she spent making it:cranberry wreathIn a similar vein (i.e., styrofoam and cranberries), you could also create striking cranberry topiaries:

Adding cranberries to floral arrangements and glass candleholders adds a brilliant splash of holiday color at very little cost:

Kids will love stringing cranberries (well, maybe not my kids) to create gorgeous garlands (use waxed dental floss to make stringing easy):

It takes no time to sugar cranberries, and they make a beautiful garnish for holiday dishes, especially with a few mint leaves tucked in around them.

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 Find directions for making them at ourbestbites.com

Look at some of the elegant ways you can use sugared cranberries:

This year I’m once again baking loaves of cranberry orange bread to share.  The recipe has both fresh and dried cranberries, orange juice and zest, and pecans.  It’s just sweet enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries, and the buttermilk keeps it moist.  The recipe makes 6 mini loaves or 2 regular loaves, which makes it a great recipe for sharing.

CRANBERRY ORANGE QUICK BREAD
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Recipe type: Breads and Muffins
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped
  • ⅔ cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 6 mini loaf pans, or 2 regular loaf pans, or 1 bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, zest, and melted butter. Whisk in eggs until thoroughly combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Gently fold in cranberries and nuts.
  5. Divide batter among prepared pans, filling each approximately ¾ full.
  6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The top of the bread will be golden, and the bread will have risen and the edges will be just pulling away from the sides of the pan.
  7. Allow to cool, then wrap in plastic and let sit at room temperature several hours (preferably overnight) before slicing and serving.

cranberry bread

Hot out of the oven, and they smell so good!

bread

Delicious giving

CRANBERRY ORANGE POUND CAKE

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I found this Italian porcelain Capidomonte hibiscus at a neighbor’s estate sale.  Fran, herself a delicate flower, had moved to an assisted living facility.  I assume she took her nicer things with her, because there wasn’t much at the sale.  But standing out among the yellowed books, aluminum cookware, and midcentury furniture, was this fragile hibiscus.  It was a pretty thing among all the junk.

According to my interwebs research, in Hawaii, where the yellow hibiscus is the state flower, a hibiscus tucked behind a woman’s right ear indicates the woman is spoken for, a hibiscus behind the left ear indicates the woman is available, and a hibiscus behind both ears means the woman is trouble.

Muumuus — those loose, usually floral-print dresses, that hang from the shoulder are also popular in Hawaiian culture.

Lilo[1]

Lilo in her muumuu

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Three’s Company’s Mrs. Roper in her trademark muumuu

If you are young and slim and tan, you can probably pull off wearing a muumuu and flip flops (those cheap rubber thongs that slap against your heel as you walk making a “flip flop” sound) with a hibiscus tucked behind your ear.  But let’s face it — after a certain age, and definitely after a certain weight, a muumuu becomes a moo moo, and flip flops are more like waddle daddles, and wearing them in public is a definite fashion don’t.

Not long ago, I was waiting in line at the grocery store behind a woman over a certain age and certain weight who was wearing a moo moo and waddle daddles.  I am regularly guilted into donating a dollar to whatever cause the store is collecting for — like this one at Petco, for example:

photo

How can you say no?  Well, I’ve observed that most of us manage to do so, but we do it politely, as in “Not today, thank you.”  On this particular occasion, the shy young cashier looked at the moo moo woman and said, ” Would you like to donate a dollar to breast cancer?”  I suppose technically she should have asked if she would like to donate a dollar to the fight against breast cancer or breast cancer research or something like that.  But we all know what she meant.  Except moo moo woman.  She replied very loudly and very very obnoxiously, “NO, I DON’T WANT TO DONATE A DOLLAR TO BREAST CANCER.  WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT?  BREAST CANCER IS A TERRIBLE DISEASE.  OH NO, I DON’T WANT TO DONATE TO BREAST CANCER, BLAH BLAH BLAH.”  The poor cashier just bowed her head and tried to avoid eye contact with her.  Moo moo woman paid the cashier and waddle daddled out of the store, much to the cashier’s relief.  Needless to say, I donated a dollar to breast cancer that day.

At the grocery store the other day, I found something else to do with a dollar — buy cranberries.  Left behind after the holidays — much like Fran’s porcelain hibiscus — they were on sale for a dollar a bag, less than half the price they were just a few weeks ago.  They were big, firm Wisconsin cranberries, perfect for baking with.

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Inspired by the delicate hibiscus and the memory of the mean old moo moo woman who embarrassed the cashier over a request to donate a dollar, I bought a dollar bag of cranberries and made Cranberry Orange Pound Cake.  This is a happy, sunny cake to chase away the winter blues.

CRANBERRY ORANGE POUND CAKE
5.0 from 2 reviews
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Ingredients
  • 3 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar, divided use
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup orange juice (or combination of lemon and orange juice, if desired)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind (can use lemon or combination of lemon and orange, if desired)
  • 1-1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • For glaze:
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup orange juice (can use lemon juice, or combination of orange and lemon juice, if desired)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" loaf pans (alternatively, you can use a 10" bundt pan, or 5 mini loaf pans).
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Place butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1-3/4 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks 2 at a time. Beat in sour cream, orange juice, vanilla, and orange rind. Fold in flour mixture, just until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Slowly add remaining ¼ cup sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Fold half of whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites. Gently fold in cranberries. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake approximately 1 hour, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make glaze by combining sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Unmold cake onto a plate and spoon glaze over warm cake.

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