Category Archives: Fruit

Cranberry Sauce 2.0 – Happy Thanksgiving!

For this Thanksgiving I’m taking you from cranberry sauce out of a can to cranberry sauce 2.0! I’m also taking you behind the scenes of my first Thanksgiving in Ohio. I’m sure you are all in the thick of cooking, probably have your cranberry sauce made, and won’t even read this until tomorrow. Nevertheless, I feel I need to put this out there into cyberspace because I am thankful today, and did I forget to mention – I love cranberry sauce! I love the color. I love how tart and sweet it is all at the same time. I love how it’s a great partner to turkey, but if it spills into the stuffing or sweet potatoes – even better! I love the fact you only need only 3 ingredients to make it. That’s without my splash of course, but we’ll get to that.

Remember this? I do and will admit, I even love cranberry sauce from a can!

On the first Thanksgiving we spent in Ohio back in 2003, we decided against travelling anywhere as we had just moved a couple of months before and the thought of a long drive, or rushing to the airport, was too much to think about. What we did instead was plan a fun weekend at home full with games, good food, and going to the movies. I thought it would be a great idea if we all cooked together for the holiday. Before Food Network told us it was cool for kids to be in the kitchen, mine already had aprons with their names embroidered on them! Here is what I remember… I was in charge of the turkey, my older son was in charge of the desserts, his younger brother helped with the cranberry sauce, and my husband just made a mess, so he was given the job of setting the table! And we laughed a lot.

What I learned from this experience was several things: first, since it was my then, 5 year old making the cranberry sauce, I learned how high raw cranberries can bounce and quickly scatter all over the kitchen! I also learned the importance of keeping a lid on the pot when cooking (they sometimes pop out!). I learned my older son was great at following directions and liked pumpkin pie. I learned that my husband while a menace in the kitchen was great at selecting wine, picking out good music, and setting the table which is where his expertise lies. I learned I didn’t play well with others in the kitchen but still loved every minute of it! Finally I learned how even though most people think of Thanksgiving as a time of being with a big extended family and lots of friends (and I was sad we weren’t), for us it was just as great if not better being just us four.

Today as I sit and write this post, I think of all I am grateful for. One of the first things that comes to mind is cranberry sauce! It reminds me of that wonderful Thanksgiving day in 2003 which taught me so much about my family. So here goes, my cranberry sauce recipe with what I think you’ll agree – a Splash of Sherri!

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving wherever and with whoever you are with – be Grateful.

2 – 12 ounce bags of fresh cranberries washed
1 cup sugar (you can add more, it depends how sweet you like it)
2 cups water
3/4 cup dried cranberries (my secret ingredient)
¾ cup canned mandarin oranges in juice drained
½ to ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans(depending on how nutty you would like it)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (my other secret ingredient!)
Recipe makes about 5 cups and feeds a lot of people! Feel free to cut it in half.

Cook the cranberries, sugar, and water in a covered saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, add the dried cranberries and continue to cook another 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open, stirring occasionally. When checking the sauce to stir, be mindful to lift the lid away from you, as some cranberries might pop up as I found out the hard way! Remove from heat and allow it to cool a little before adding in the vanilla. If you add it when it’s too hot, it will evaporate quickly. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Before serving, add the walnuts and oranges. You can alter the amount to your liking.

A couple of tips before I leave you… Cranberry sauce thickens as it cools they are full of natural pectin. If it is thicker than you like, add a little water or juice to it. This year, I added pineapple juice because it’s what I had on hand, orange juice would work too, as would water. Add one tablespoon at a time, till the desired thickness. Second, you can always make it sweeter, so be conservative to start. Then if it’s not as sweet as you would like it, add a little sugar. One reason my recipe has 1/2 the sugar if not more than most, is the dried cranberries add a lot of sweetness. Oh, and you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to make this. It’s so easy, why not make it next week?

Caramel Apples – A New Halloween Tradition in Our House!

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Although today is Halloween, we here in Ohio celebrated last night. It’s one of those midwest things I still don’t understand, like why my kids never get off school for Columbus Day when we live in Columbus, Ohio! Anyway, they call last night beggar’s night and I handed out over 125 pieces of candy, pretzels, lollipops, glow sticks and Twizzlers to more than 75 cutely dressed trick or treaters!

There are some traditions I have for myself on beggar’s night. I usually get my candy ready in a big black cauldron early in the day, pick up a pizza for dinner, make a pot of coffee and wait till 6pm arrives. That’s when the kids start coming and it doesn’t stop until 8pm when either the last little goblin shows up, or I run out of candy – whichever comes first! Last night I broke tradition. This was the first year my youngest son did not go trick or treating. It marked the end of  an era. This year, there was no pizza and no coffee. I didn’t even have my cauldren! However, there were caramel apples – plenty of caramel apples. A new Halloween tradition is born! Enjoy!

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No matter what you roll them in, they are delicious!

6 apples washed and dried well (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Empire) I find cold apples work best
1 pound of caramel (find a local candy making supply store to buy it in bulk so you don’t have to unwrap a million little caramels)
2 tablespoons milk
6 chopsticks
1 cup good quality melting chocolate, white or dark (optional)

Optional Toppings
Mini chocolate chips
Mini m&m’s
Chopped nuts (almonds, peanuts and pecans work very well)
Sprinkles
Crushed Heath bar candies
Crushed Oreo cookies
Sea Salt (this is especially good if you are into the salty caramel craze!)

Line a sheet pan with wax paper, spray it lightly with oil and set aside.

In the top of a double boiler, add the caramel and two tablespoons of milk. Bring the water in the bottom portion of the pot to a boil then lower the heat to a low simmer. It takes about 10 minutes or so to melt down – stir every couple of minutes.

While the caramel is melting, wash and dry the apples very well. Insert the pointy end of the chopstick into the center of the apple. I like to push it all the way down. If it’s too tough, use a rubber mallet to tap it in gently.

When the caramel is completely melted, stir it well then dip each apple in and twirl it around to coat the apple. Let the excess caramel drip off. I use a spare chopstick to take some of the caramel off of the bottom. Then set on the prepared pan. You have to work quickly with the caramel. Now on to decorating…

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You can use any size apple. I found these cute little apples at a local farmer’s market. They came out adorable!

The apples can be made several ways. Just be sure to have fun with it, there is no wrong way to create a deliciously decorated caramel apple!

You can dip them in caramel refrigerate 30 minutes and eat.

You can dip them in caramel and immediately roll into the topping of your choice. Decorate with any combination of toppings while the caramel is still wet, then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set – and enjoy. Decorate one apple at a time after dipping.

You can dip them in caramel then dip or drizzle them with chocolate and decorate with toppings. If you do this step, place the caramel apples in the fridge to set. While they are setting, melt about 1 cup of chocolate melts in a double boiler . You have to wait until the caramel is set before you dip them into the melted chocolate. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes. Then sprinkle or roll them into any topping you like.

Whatever method you choose, place them in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set. They should be stored in the fridge if you’re not going to eat them right away and will stay fresh for a week or more. I found the best way to wrap them is individually in wax paper.* Cut a sheet that is about 12 x 14 or larger, depending on the size of your apple. Set the apple in the middle of the rectangle and gently bring each corner in towards the stick, then twist it to close around the stick.

*Fun fact, Thomas Edison is credited for inventing wax paper! How do you like that?

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Honeycrisp Apples… What’s all the Hype?

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If you live in the Midwest, you know that last week was the beginning of honeycrisp apple season. If you live anywhere else in the country, allow me to share a glimpse of what that means…

Local farms will advertise the day “u-pick” is available for whatever produce they have available. The farms post on their websites which variety of fruit or vegetables will be available, or you can sign up for email alerts. What is u-pick, my New York friends are asking? Well, it’s exactly that. You go to a farm and pick your own apples, blueberries, pumpkins – whatever is in season. It is so much fun my friends and family look forward to it all year. I was first introduced to apple picking soon after we moved to Ohio. My son’s kindergarten class went to a local orchard and for weeks following he ate apples with breakfast, lunch, and dinner! The next year we went as a family and have been doing so ever since. Lynd’s Farm has a corn maze, farm stand with fresh baked goods, and the best fruits and vegetables you can find. I think Autumn is the best time to go. That’s when they have hot apple cider and warm doughnuts.

Watch out!

Watch out Lauren, Judy’s on a mission – leave no apple behind!

Honeycrisp time is something completely different. We go to Lynd’s Fruit Farm every year. The picking is always on a Friday and the apples go fast. Some years they have been sold out by noon. My girlfriends and I have made honeycrisp picking a tradition for the past 3 or 4 years now. We get the kids off to school, designate a driver and off we go! The plan is to get to the farm before they open, wait on the car line that extends for miles, talk about which side of the orchard we should go to and how crazy we are for waiting to do this! Then for the next hour or so taste and pick the most deliciously juicy apples you can imagine and realize it was all worth it. With the first bite, you know why they are called honeycrisp. They are sweet with a hint of honey flavor, very crisp and juicy. What we always find amazing is that every tree yields a slightly different tasting apple. This year after each of us picking our 20+ pounds of apples, we dragged our bags to the car only to find the best tree when it was too late! Every year, we also learn something new from fellow apple pickers. One year we were impressed with the family who came with the wagon so you didn’t have to schlepp your apples around. The next year it was the woman with the step stool so she could reach the higher parts of the trees – genius! One of the best tips we got was from the women who had laundry baskets in their car. After picking, they put the plastic bags filled with apples in the basket so they won’t roll around in the car on the way home.

 

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My friend Judy is the apple in the middle!

I’d like to tell you that there will be great recipes on my blog featuring them, but I’m not sure there will be! For one thing, I think they are too delicious eaten as is to do anything else with them. But who knows, I may change my mind. We met a woman who came with a wagon and picked about 60 pounds of apples! She was planning on making a lot of pies. I should have gotten a little friendlier with her!

 

Fruit Bowl

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When I have a dinner party, I like to cook and prepare everything myself. If someone wants to bring something I’m happiest with wine and fruit. I think that’s a great hostess helper. So I suppose for me Sangria would be a bonus! You know, fruit in the wine! Many years ago I invited a family for dinner and when asked what they could bring I said “how about fruit?” What a surprise when they showed up with a tremendous bowl filled with a small can of fruit cocktail in the wee bottom. When she handed it to me she said, “I’m not really a good cook!” I thought that was the funniest thing I had ever heard.

So how do you make a nice presentation when serving fruit? Well if you’re truly not a cook and find the whole thing overwhelming, buy three different color grapes and put them side by side in a nice bowl or glass pie dish with the green grapes in the center. Another way is to make a fruit salad with different color fruits of various textures and sizes. Then you can put it in a pretty bowl and mix it all together. Just make sure the bowl size is appropriate to the amount of fruit you plan on using. However, I have never been big on the fruit salad; I prefer to separate the fruit by like kind. I think presentation wise it looks really pretty that way, and I like the idea of being able to select whichever fruit you like the best.

My sister Francine makes a beautiful fruit tray. People often ask her to bring that when she is invited to their home. One of her tricks is the type of tray she uses. It’s a large Lucite tray with divided removable containers that sit on top. It makes it easy to put the similar quantities in each container making for a nice balanced fruit platter. For my first anniversary she bought me one as a gift and I use it often and think of her every time I do.

What can you do if you don’t have a beautiful tray to serve it on? First, cut your fruit in similar shapes and sizes. Use a large shallow bowl and place like fruit together. Then disperse the fruit so that no two same colors are sitting next to one another. It’s a simple idea yet look how beautiful it is! If you like to serve yogurt or cream cheese dip you can place that right in the middle. Enjoy!