My Famous Cran-Orange Relish, just in time for Thanksgiving

 Cran-Orange Relish
Cran-Orange Relish
  • 2 12 oz bags of fresh cranberries
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 1 T raspberry or strawberry jam
  • 2-3 T sugar
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 T Grand Marnier liqueur
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Assembly Line

I use a dutch oven pan to create more surface area for warming the berries. Place cranberries, sugar, jam and vinegar in the pan on a low to medium setting, stir. Zest one navel orange and then juice that orange, adding both juice and zest to berry mixture. Stir again

Using a veggie peeler or small sharp knife, remove about 1/2 the peel from the second orange, careful not to go beneath the “orange” peel (avoiding the bitter white part). Chop the peel fine (see below) until you have 1 tablespoon. You may use more peel if you end up with more or freeze it for later use.

Add peel to berry mixture. Cut the second orange in half and then section it, adding the sections to the berry mixture. Squeeze any residual juice from the second orange into the pan.

Looks pretty, smells tart and citrusy
Looks pretty, smells tart and citrusy

You will start to hear little pops from the pan, those are the cranberries bursting. Give it a stir, put a lid on the pan, reduce the heat to low. Check back every 15 -20 minutes for another stir, letting it simmer.. After 45 minutes, stir in the Grand Marnier, the berry mixture should be breaking down like a chutney. Continue to cook for 15-20 minutes more. Cool and serve. Makes 2-3 cups of relish. This can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to two weeks and freezes beautifully, simply thaw and serve.

This is delicious as to serve not only with your Thanksgiving dinner but with chicken, pork or even seared scallops (trust me). For a festive appetizer, make a charcuterie platter  with cheeses like brie or a spreadable goat cheese or camembert, manchego, sharp white cheddar, cornichons and marcona almonds with sliced baguettes! Get creative…..and always, enjoy!

Looking for other Thanksgiving or Holiday recipes? Here’s links to a few of my best recipes:

Chestnut, Apple and Sausage Stuffing

Roasting Chestnuts – a Labor of Love

As I’m making my 2016 batch today, I decided to re-publish this recipe in hopes that it might be helpful to someone this Thanksgiving!  

Fresh-Picked Herb Compound Butter

I’ve been growing herbs for almost 30 years. For a self-taught “gourmet”, it’s thrilling for me to go into my backyard and pick lush flat leaf parsley, flavorful chives, fragrant rosemary and thyme.  With our recent freezing temps and heavy snowfall, I was certain that I wouldn’t be harvesting herbs for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then we had a thaw and under the weather damaged herbs, I was able to find an ample supply – hooray!

Fresh-Picked Herb Compound Butter

Fresh picked herbs & butter (not pictured crack black pepper)
Fresh picked herbs & butter (not pictured crack black pepper)
Start with 2 sticks of very soft butter (I use salted butter), add  1 generous tablespoon each of chopped flat-leaf parsley, thyme & rosemary, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic chives and 1-2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper.  Stir together with a dinner fork.  Cover and store in a cool (not cold place) until ready for use.

As we speak, it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving and I just prepared mine. Making ahead allows the herbs to really flavor the butter. While there are many uses for compound butters, I’ll use this one after gently loosening the skin of the turkey breast then taking gobs of it, massaging and slathering it between the skin and the turkey.  As it roasts in the oven, the herb butter self-bastes the turkey.  Enjoy!

Oven-Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Gremolata Topping

For an easy side-dish, great for entertaining, try my new favorite potato dish.

Oven-Roasted Smashed Potatoes with Gremolata       serves 4-6

  • 1 dozen new potatoes (you could also use redskin potatoes)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, whole & peeled
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • olive oil

Fill a large pot with water and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of sea salt, bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until tender – use a sharp knife to test.  Drain and cool them for 5 minutes.

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Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil. On a cutting board, place each potato under a spatula (or lunch plate would work), I use a heavy meat tenderizer from Williams Sonoma. Press down with even pressure – gently – smashing but not pulverizing.

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My heavy-duty potato smasher.
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Place each smashed potato on the foil-lined baking sheet.

Drizzle the potatoes generously with olive oil, sprinkle sea salt and black pepper over them. (I also put the garlic cloves that boiled with the potatoes on the sheet pan)

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Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the potatoes for 18-20 minutes, remove, flip each one. Drizzle with more olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Bake for another 18-20 minutes. Remove the pan from oven, turn off heat. Top the potatoes with Gremolata (see recipe below) and place the pan back in the oven for 5 minutes and serve.

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Enjoy!

Gremolata

  • Zest from 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • 1-2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 1 t coarse black pepper
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup chopped parsley

I use a mezzaluna given to me by my lifelong BFF, to chop the parsley and garlic, having first place the citrus zest, salt and pepper under the parsley and garlic. Cover until ready to serve.

This is what is looks like:

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Gremolata – delicious!

Raspberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal

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Within the last two years, a former co-worker turned our little band of foodies on to baked oatmeal, a concept we’d known nothing about but that has since been showing up everywhere.  The variations are endless and delicious and it’s a great way to start the day making enough for a quick breakfast for the rest of the week.

I hadn’t made it for a while yet it’s been on my mind, especially during these cold winter mornings.  So today, culling a myriad of suggestions from Pinterest and other sources, then surveying my ample pantry and freezer ingredients to see what I had available, I came up with this delicious recipe of my own. Enjoy!

Raspberry Walnut Baked Oatmeal                              serves 6

2 cups old-fashioned whole grain oatmeal

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Mix dry ingredients together, set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8×8 baking dish.  In a separate bowl mix together:
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Add to dry ingredients.  Fold in:
  • 1 2/3 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2/3 cup coarse chopped walnuts

Pour into baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.  Serve with or without milk.

Chef’s note:  you can substitute blueberries, strawberries, dates, dried apricots, pecans, almonds, almond or soy milk – you get it.  It is the ultimate easy way to use what you have on hand, what’s seasonal and what sounds good.

Olive Tapenade (for Bruschetta)

This is one of my favorite go-to recipes for appetizers. I had this years ago in a restaurant and it was so tasty I wrote down everything I could identify and have made it ever since.  I’ve even had numerous guests who at first said “oh I don’t care for olives” but trusting enough in my culinary skills to try it and viola! Everyone loves it – not a crumb left at the end of the party.  And this is actually better if you make it ahead – 24 hours minimum or even better a few days.  I serve this atop little slices of baguette, first drizzling a bit of extra virgin olive oil on the slices, giving them a few minutes in a 350 degree oven, then adding a spoon of the tapenade on each slice, then back for 5-10 minutes. I’m making this today for a party on Saturday so thought I’d share it with my followers.

Olive Tapenade 

Weight Watchers Smart Points 1 (serving size 1/2 tablespoon)

  • 1 5.75 oz jar green olives with pimento
  • 1 6 oz can black olives (any size)
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 t coarse black pepper
  • 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop both kinds of olives and garlic cloves.  I use a hand-chopper (Pampered Chef) to achieve a very fine texture.  Stir olives and garlic together.  Add oregano and black pepper to olive mix, stir to blend.  Add the olive oil and give a final stir.  Place in a covered container to refrigerate for 24 hours or longer.

Note from Spence’s Girl:  If you have more tapenade than bread, this is excellent tossed into a pasta sauce or used as the olive salad component of a muffalletta sandwich!

Five Bean Salad, my way

Five Bean Salad
Five Bean Salad, my way

I LOVE FIVE BEAN SALAD.  So great to take to a potluck or picnic (no mayo), it’s a favorite of ours to have as our salad or veggie side with any number of meals year round. It makes a lot and only gets better each subsequent day.  It keeps for up to two weeks in the fridge but never  lasts that long!  I use my mom’s recipe but tweak it in my own way to give it a bit more pizazz!

Five Bean Salad, my way

serves 15                      Weight Watchers Smart Points 7

1 can garbanzo beans (or chickpeas as they’re also known)
1 can great northern or navy beans
1 can cut green beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can wax beans
2 large shallots finely minced or red onion finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4-5 finely chopped peppadew peppers (these come in a jar) or substitute 1 tablespoon chopped pimento
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeños (first removing ribs and seeds) or green pepper if you can’t take the heat.

Drain and rinse beans and put into a large serving bowl. Add the shallots, peppadew peppers and jalapeño, stir taking care not to break the beans.

Marinade:

3/4 c red wine or champagne vinegar
3/4 c vegetable oil (canola or olive oil)
1/2 c sugar
1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Mix this together well – making sure that the sugar has “melted” into the marinade. Pour over the beans and stir together. Refrigerate. Stir every 30-60 minutes to further distribute the marinade. This is best made at least 8 hours prior to serving.

Permission to eat dessert first?

My mom makes the BEST PIE CRUST known to man or woman.  And usually while spending the summers in Michigan, she makes several to leave behind in my freezer.  But time got away from us and it didn’t happen this year.  While I’ve made them successfully, using her recipe, it’s been 30+ years since the rolling pin and I have made contact.  With all the other from-scratch cooking this week coupled with my fear of failure for an epic meal such as Thanksgiving, I sought out several yummy new non-pie recipes.

Spence will tell anyone (whether they ask or not) that he doesn’t eat sweets.  And to a degree, that was true for many years – pecan pie was his birthday “cake” or Haagen Daz Rum Raisin Ice Cream were his sweet go-tos.  But slowly, over our 24 years together, he’s been seduced by my tiramisu, Kahlua cake, apple crisp etc. and I notice he’s discovered his sweet tooth.

Through the resources of Pinterest, I went searching for some holiday-ish sounding desserts and found Pumpkin Pie Bars and Gooey Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.

They’ve just left the oven, the house smells insanely good and I haven’t had breakfast – just tea.  Since it’s just us and dinner is hours away, would it be wrong to try one of each bars?  Right? I knew it – everyone agrees, I can feel your support.   Thank you! And Happy Thanksgiving.

Both of these recipes can be found on my Pinterest Board called Desserts and Sweets!