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I love cranberry sauce. It might be my favorite part of Thanksgiving. That and the turkey. And the stuffing. And the pie. And pumpkin bread! Okay, it’s really hard to pick just one, but cranberry sauce is definitely up there.

My parents practically have to have a can of cranberry sauce just for me. When I was little, I only liked the jellied kind. When I got a little older, I grew to appreciate whole berry cranberry sauce. I became a bit of a cranberry sauce snob – only Ocean Spray brand, please! The store brand stuff is not up to snuff.

Then I ventured into the realm of making my own cranberry sauce. First I went the traditional route, the recipe on the bag of Ocean Spray cranberries. And that’s good, but I guess I’m not too crazy about the cranberry-orange combination in my sauce. No matter how much I love cranberry sauce, I just can’t get into my dad’s cranberry-orange relish, made with raw cranberries. It’s just too.. tart. And overwhelmingly orange-y. A cranberry-orange sauce is too close to a cranberry-orange relish for my tastes… I like it, but I won’t go crazy for it.

And then I came across this recipe. Cranberry sauce with maple syrup and brown sugar. I think my brain exploded a little bit. I knew this would be cranberry sauce nirvana.

And it is. Oh boy is it ever. I’m nuts about this sauce. It is deliciously tart with just the right amount of sweetness. The maple syrup, brown sugar and vanilla combine to give it a great richness and depth of flavor. You definitely can taste the maple-y goodness of the syrup through the bright tartness of the cranberries. I never would have thought to combine maple syrup and cranberries, and it turns out they’re divine together. And with a recipe so simple (it takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish! No chopping, zesting, or juicing anything!), there’s really no reason for me to ever go back to canned sauce.

My hunt for the perfect cranberry sauce is over. This is it.

Maple Brown Sugar Cranberry Sauce

From Baking Bites

12-oz fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Combine cranberries, maple syrup, brown sugar and water in a large saucepan and cook over high heat until cranberries start to pop. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries finish popping and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract (if using).
Sauce can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.

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Okay, I know this isn’t very pretty, but that doesn’t stop it from being all sorts of delicious. I don’t cook a lot of beef dishes, but this one caught my eye and I knew James would love it. The brisket is braised for four hours until it simply falls apart in tender, savory amazingness. This dish is packed full of fantastic flavors, bright and slightly tart from the cranberries, rich and complex from the wine, this is the definition of umami. I love that it’s very saucy, it basically creates its own gravy. This dish begs to be served with buttermilk mashed potatoes, so that’s what I did – it was awesome.

This is a true Sunday dinner – yes, it does take a lot of time, so it pretty much necessitates weekend cooking. But more than that, this is the kind of meal that you’d have at home with your whole family. This is home cooking comfort. It would be a great dish for company, but I don’t see why I should have to save it just for that, you know? We live about 7 hours away from our nearest family, so we don’t have many occasions for big family meals and it would be easy to just cook fast dishes that are sized more appropriately for our two-person household. But sometimes I just crave those Big Deal Sunday Dinners that my mom makes – this dish fit the bill perfectly, and yes there was a ton of leftovers but they were awesome leftovers.

And while it may seem big and fancy and time-comsuming, the majority of the time is hands off, in the oven. There was probably 15 minutes of work involved in making this, it’s actually remarkably simple after you brown the beef – you just toss a bunch of stuff in the pot and then throw the thing in the oven! And what comes out is magic.

Braised Brisket with Cranberries

From Everyday Food, November 2008

Prep Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 4 1/4 hours Yield: Serves 8

3 pounds beef brisket, fat trimmed to a 1/4-inch layer
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries
1 bag (1 pound) frozen pearl onions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lowest position. Season brisket with salt and pepper. Heat a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add brisket, fat side down. Cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating once. Transfer brisket to a plate (reserve pot).
  2. Add flour to pot and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth, wine, bay leaf, molasses, half the cranberries, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Return brisket to pot, and cover. Transfer to oven; bake 3 hours.
  3. Stir in onions; cover, and return pot to oven. Cook 30 minutes more. Stir in remaining cranberries; return pot to oven. Cook, uncovered, until brisket is fork-tender, 30 minutes more. Discard bay leaf before serving.

 

These brownies are pretty darn awesome. These are luscious, chocolatey, rich brownies with peanut butter swirled in the top for added goodness. But that’s not all.

They’re sent completely over the top by the pile of chopped up candy bars mixed into the batter. The original recipe calls for Snickers, but we didn’t have any. We had a whole mess of other candy leftover from Halloween, so I used a combination of Milky Way, Reese’s cups, Rolos, and Heath bars.

Most everything except for the Reese’s kind of melted and disappeared into the brownies, just making them more decadent. Some of the candy sank to the bottom and turned into nuggets of concentrated chocolatey awesomeness… I don’t really know how to describe it, but I can tell you that they’re James’ favorite part.



These brownies would be great without the candy, too. They’re fudgy and rich and fantastic.

 

 

 

 

Candy Bar Brownies

Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Yield: 24 brownies   Cook Time: 35-40 minutes

1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped candy bars, such as Milky Way, Rolo, Reese’s Cups, Heath Bars, and/or Snickers
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla extract. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Add cocoa; stir until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt; stir until combined. Stir in candy bar chunks. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Drop dollops of peanut butter over the batter. Using a knife, swirl peanut butter into brownies. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut into squares and serve.

This recipe is a bit of foodie kismet – it came up in my Google reader shortly after I came across the recipe for Autumn Harvest Chili in Better Homes and Gardens, and I knew the two would be perfect together. Chili and cornbread are made for each other, so it makes sense that an autumnal twist on cornbread would be delicious alongside an autumnal twist on chili. And I was right. I love cornbread, I love pumpkin bread, and now – I love pumpkin cornbread.

And if you decide to make some pumpkin cornbread, may I suggest some of this action:

Oh yes.

Mmm…

Gimme some of that!

Seriously, you guys. This is great cornbread. Perfect for pairing with any fall recipe.

Pumpkin Cornbread

From Two Peas and Their Pod

1 cup all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg

½ cups brown sugar

1 cup cornmeal (not stoneground)

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

¼ cups olive oil

1 Tablespoon molasses

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8×8″ baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, spices, brown sugar, and cornmeal.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and then stir in the pumpkin, oil, and molasses.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top as much as possible. The batter will be quite thick.
  5. Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

This right here is a big bowl of hearty, spicy autumnal goodness. I’ve never had a chili like this before. I’m a big fan of the beef and beans kind of chili, topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream, and I love a good plate of Cincinnati chili with its chocolatey notes, served on top of spaghetti.

This one is different. This one is autumn in chili form. This is chili with butternut squash and apples and it’s thick and chunky and beany and unexpected and extremely satisfying. I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my repertoire – it’s a keeper.

Note – use a big pot for this. Admittedly, I used a huge butternut squash (I’m crazy for butternut squash) and my 7 quart Martha Stewart Dutch oven was barely big enough for it, but I think my 5 quart Dutch oven wouldn’t have worked well here.

Autumn Harvest Chili

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, October 2011

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 1/2 lb cooked chicken-apple sausage links, cut in 1 inch pieces

2 large red onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch chunks (about 6 cups)

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4 inch chunks

2 cans pinto beans (or kidney beans), drained and rinsed, 1 can slightly smashed

1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

Gala or other apples, cut in rings

  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high. Add sausage; cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  2. In the same pot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook onions for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more, until onion is nearly tender. Add squash and cook 5 minutes. Stir in chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook 1 minute. Return chicken to pot and add broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high. Cook apples 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until light brown. Transfer apples along with beans to chili. Simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until apples are tender. Top with sage and apple slices. Makes 8 servings.

Suzi

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