Scrumptious Cranberry Nut Bread…

It’s that time of year again. I know this sounds silly but I get a little wave of excitement every time I see bags of cranberries in the grocery store for the first time. To me it’s heralding the holiday season, my favorite time of year.

Immediately my thoughts go to making a cranberry bread. It’s tradition, sort of like making Christmas cookies every year. And each year I fiddle with the recipe a little but I think I’ve got it down to something I really like.

I love the tartness of cranberries and when you combine them with orange juice, orange zest, nuts and all the other regular cast of characters you have in a sweet bread loaf that’s simply heaven. So let’s talk cranberry nut bread…

Lesson Learned 1 – Process the cranberries in a mini food processor: In my estimation this is the quickest way to get the job done with minimal mess. I pulse the cranberries so that I can get some nice sized chunks. You don’t want to pulverize them, that would defeat the purpose of the bread. The pictures below show how I processed them.

Lesson Learned 2 – Use the zest of 1 medium sized orange: I’ve seen different amounts of zest called for in various recipes and I just made it easy and said use the zest of one medium sized orange. That will render a generous table spoon which noticeably adds flavor to the bread. Quit fooling around with measuring spoons on this one. Just use one orange!

Lesson Learned 3 – I adjusted the leavening in my recipe: Again after looking at several recipes I adjusted the leavening (baking powder and soda) for high altitude. I will give you the amounts I used and also the recommended amounts that I saw on various recipes for sea level. As you can see from the pictures my bread turned out great with no cave-in in the middle (which is a result of too much leavening at high altitude). Those of you at sea level – just use the “normal” amounts I listed.

And that’s it. This is one of my all-time Fall classics. I make it every year when cranberries arrive at the grocery store. I hope you enjoy it and please, let me know what you think…

Scrumptious Cranberry Nut Bread...

  • Servings: 1 Loaf
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (1 tsp. high altitude)

1/2 tsp. baking soda (1/4 tsp. high altitude)

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup orange juice

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

Zest of one medium sized orange

1 egg, room temperature, beaten

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Baking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In another bowl combine orange juice, oil, zest and egg. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the cranberries and nuts until they are all throughout the batter.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely.

 

 

 

Candied Pecans…

I haven’t posted recently in my tips and tricks section so today I thought I would add a little tidbit into that category. This little trick is a great way to enhance the flavor of any salad – candied pecans.

The recipe came about when I recently hosted a Super Bowl party. Being that my home town team (the Denver Broncos) was in the game I wanted to have a menu that would allow me to actually watch the game but still serve food that was quick and easy but also special. For one of my dishes I decided to have an apple, cranberry spinach salad and decided that adding candied pecans would dress it up nicely. Needless to say, they were a hit. One guest said she wanted to forget the rest of the food and just eat the pecans. So next time you want to dress up a salad try this recipe. They’re so good and you can make them ahead of time which is always a good thing when you’re having a party.

So let me share a couple of quick reminders when making candied pecans…

Lesson Learned 1 – Make sure you line your baking pan with a silicone mat or parchment paper: Otherwise you will wind up with a sticky mess that will be very difficult if not impossible to clean.

Lesson Learned 2 – It is important to stir the pecans every 15 minutes: If you don’t they will all clump together and not roast evenly. The sugar mixture will harden so you want to regularly loosen it up and prevent having big globs of pecans stuck together.

Other than that, this recipe is very easy to make. But let me warn you, you’ll need strong will power in order to resist gobbling them all up yourself. Enjoy!

CANDIED PECANS…

  • Servings: Several
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 Tbs. cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

8 ounces pecan halves, unsalted

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp water

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a large walled baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. (I used parchment paper and it worked just fine).

Combine sugars, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together till combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg white, vanilla and water until the mixture is frothy. Add the pecans and coat them thoroughly in the egg white mixture. Add the sugar mixture and toss until the pecans are completely coated.

Spread the pecans in a single layer onto the baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes making sure to stir the pecans every 15 minutes.

Leave the pecans on the baking sheet until completely cooled. Store in an airtight container.

Candied Pecans

 

Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread…

So after making my pumpkin cream cheese sweet bread I had some leftover pumpkin puree. Since  I didn’t want to waste it and the sweet bread was such a big hit I thought I’d try making another type of sweet bread using the leftovers.

What I like about this bread is it combines some of my favorite Fall flavors – pumpkin, cranberry and orange. Then you throw in a little chopped pecans and you’re in sweet bread heaven.

So let’s talk some pumpkin cranberry nut bread…

Cover the cranberries with orange juiceLesson Learned 1 –   Plump the dried cranberries for even more flavor: I had a bag of cooking and baking julienne sliced cranberries and I was able to give them an extra body and boost by soaking them in warm fresh orange juice. Yum!

In a microwavable bowl I just poured the juice of one large orange over a half cup of the cranberries, put plastic wrap over the bowl, slit the wrap to vent and heated the mixture for 45 seconds.  Then I let the mixture sit covered in the plastic wrap for at least 5 minutes and voila, plumped cranberries. You may have done this process before with raisins, and it works the same for dried cranberries. Plus it gives the cranberries an extra boost of orange flavor.

Lesson Learned 2 – I adapted this recipe from a muffin recipe: Almost any muffin recipe can be adapted into a sweet bread recipe. You just have to remember to bake it longer. I took the guess work out for you. I started checking the bread at 30 minutes and wound up baking it for an additional 15 minutes, checking the loaf every 5 minutes. My determination is, based on your oven and where you live, the bread should be baked for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dryLesson Learned 3 – You don’t need any mixer for this recipe:  Just combine the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until just combined – don’t over mix. It couldn’t be easier.

This bread is incredibly easy to make. So if you’re looking for a great Fall treat that’s full of flavor and requires hardly any effort on your part, this is the recipe for you! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread…

  • Servings: 14-16 slices
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used cooking and baking cranberries, julienned)

The juice of one large orange

2 cups flour, plus 1 Tbs. for high altitude

2/3 cup granulated sugar, measure slightly less for high altitude

1 Tbs. pumpkin spice blend

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 tsp. salt

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup milk, you can used reduced fat milk

2 extra large eggs

The zest of one large orange

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat your oven to 350. Zest the orange. Cut the orange and juice it. Place the cranberries in a microwavable bowl and pour the orange juice over them. Take plastic wrap and cover the top of the bowl, cutting a small slit in the center to vent the steam. Microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside and let the cranberries steep for at least 5 minutes.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, pumpkin spice blend, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the chopped pecans. Drain the cranberries and put them in another large bowl. Add the somewhat cooled melted butter (you don’t want the eggs to scramble) the canned pumpkin, milk, eggs and orange zest. Stir until just combined.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the bowl. Mix with a spoon or spatula until just combined.

Spray the bottom and sides of a 9 x 4 loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan. Smooth the top of the batter with a spatula making sure the batter has reached into all corners and the top is even.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the loaf rest in the loaf pan for 15 minutes then remove it to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread

 Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry Nut Bread

Sweet Potato Casserole…

For the longest time I associated sweet potato dishes with the holidays. Turns out I was missing something wonderful and nutritious all year long. That being said, I’d like to share with you a recipe that certainly can be made over the holidays but is wonderful with any meal any time of year.

I like this recipe because it’s designed to serve four (or two very large appetites) so you can either finish it off at one meal or have one serving of leftovers. It reheats beautifully. It’s simple to prepare, a colorful addition to any plate, flavorful and good for you. So throw away your preconceived notions of sweet potato casseroles being something only relegated to the holidays and enjoy them all year round!

IMG_4412Lesson Learned 1 – Cut the sweet potato into evenly sized chunks: This is very important for the cooking time. You don’t want some pieces to be mushy while other pieces are hard. I cut mine into one inch chunks. Also keep in mind sweet potatoes cook faster than russet or red potatoes. So be aware of that and start checking them for doneness at about 10 minutes. You want them to be fork tender, not mushy.

Lesson Learned 2 – To mash or not to mash in the same pot you cook them in: I am a student of the game and so I do a lot of research into cooking methods. There is a train of though out there that suggests once you’ve drained the sweet potatoes it’s best to mash them in the same pot you boiled them in. That way any excess water left on the potatoes will evaporate from the heat of the pan. That’s all well and good, but I find if I do that my potato masher scratches the heck out of the bottom of my pan, and I have some really high quality pans. IMG_4415So I’ll leave this up to you. You can certainly mash them in the same pan, but I wanted to warn you about what might happen if you did. This is what I do. Once I’ve drained the sweet potatoes, I prefer to mash them in a bowl. After I do that (and they mash quite quickly) I put them back in the pot they were boiled in and just stir them around for about a half of a minute or so (you can even use some low heat while you’re doing this). That way I get the same effect without playing havoc with the finish on my pans.

Lesson Learned 3 – You can make this recipe in individual serving sizes: Another way to prepare this dish is to divide it up equally into four ramekins and bake it off. That way your guests can have their own individual portions. This recipe adapts well in that regard and the individual ramekins are pretty cute. You can also use ramekins even when there are only two of you. Just cook two of them off for one meal and refrigerate the other two for another meal. Just make sure if you refrigerate some ramekins, or if you have leftovers in a one quart casserole, that you take the dishes out of the refrigerator and let them sit on your counter for about an hour before reheating them. That way you’ll take the chill off and the cooking time will be shorter. Also if just reheating, cover the casserole in foil. Since it’s already been cooked once you can burn the pecans if you don’t cover them.

My husband just loves this recipe. He asks me to make it all the time. Try it. I’m sure it could easily become on of your go-to potato recipes!

Sweet Potato Casserole…

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 Tbs. butter, divided (2 Tbs. cut into cubes)

1 Tbs. maple syrup

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 cup pastry flour

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 Tbs. vegetable oil

1/2 tsp. shortening, to grease the casserole dish

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 1 quart casserole dish. (I use an enameled cast iron dish for this recipe). Set the dish aside.

Place cubed sweet potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender (10-15 minutes). Drain the sweet potatoes and put them in a bowl (or back in the saucepan if you prefer – see lessons learned above). Add 1 Tbs. butter, the maple syrup, orange juice, salt and cinnamon. Mash until you reach your desired consistency. (At this point, if you mash in a bowl, you can put the potatoes back in the pot the cooked in, turn on a low heat and stir for about a minute to remove any excess water). Put the mashed sweet potatoes into the greased casserole dish.

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, pecans and brown sugar. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles course sand. Add the vegetable oil and mix until well combined. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the mashed sweet potatoes.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until the potatoes are hot and the top is golden brown.

Ready To Go Into The Oven...

Ready To Go Into The Oven…

Makes Enough For 2-4 People...

Makes Enough For 2-4 People…

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Cranberry Orange Pecan Sweet Bread…

It’s cranberry time of year again! I so love cranberries. Not only do I make a simple but killer homemade cranberry sauce  for the holidays, but I enjoy baking with cranberries – they have a tartness that lend themselves well to making delicious breads, pies and cookies. So this past week when I saw my first bag of cranberries at the grocery store I just had to buy them and bake something.

IMG_1318Years ago I used to buy box mixes to make cranberry bread. No more. It is so easy to make it yourself and I like the fact that you control what goes into it. Box mixes have become a thing of the past for me. If I can’t make it fresh, I don’t make it.

This particular recipe I did not find on Pinterest. This time I did a Google search and looked at various cranberry sweet bread recipes and their ingredients. A couple of things intrigued me about the recipe I chose. First, it used buttermilk in the batter and I’ve found that buttermilk tends to give you moister cakes/breads. Second, you don’t need a mixer for this recipe so no need to drag out the heavy KitchenAid, and I was loving that. The original recipe called for the bread to be glazed. I did not glaze my bread but I will include the glaze recipe in case you want to try it.

Recipe Rating: A+ This recipe is easy to make, and the combination of ingredients brings out the full flavor of the cranberries, pecans and orange zest – a killer combo in my estimation.

IMG_1415Lesson Learned 1 – Weighing Ingredients: I’ve read so many recipes where the author spoke of the importance of weighing ingredients, specifically flour. I never thought much off it. Normally I make sure my flour is aerated in the canister (swirling a knife in it does the trick) and then scoop out what I need and level it off. This recipe calls for 2 cups of flour or 250g. I recently purchased a kitchen scale and thought I’d try measuring the flour instead. I was surprised at how much “extra” flour I had in my measuring cup when I weighed it. It was eye opening. If you can, invest in a kitchen scale and use it when a recipe lists grams. You’ll be amazed at how much extra you may be putting into your recipe.

I did not weigh the sugar because I know how to adjust that measurement for high altitude so the bread will not fall in on itself. I do that adjustment by sight, but I will include the grams measurement for the sugar and flour in the recipe for those who do not live in high altitude. Use those measurements when at all possible. It really does make a difference

IMG_1310Lesson Learned 2 – Mixing the streusel: I don’t know about you but I have a difficult making streusel even with a pastry cutter. The butter always seems to collect on my pastry cutter and not fall off. This time I cut the cold butter (and it needs to be cold) into small cubes and just mixed it with my hands. I pretty much got the desired consistency. Next time I think I will mix it in my small food processor and see how it turns out. I am including a picture of the consistency of the streusel that worked well on top of the cake.

I’ve made many different versions of cranberry nut breads over the years but I have to say that so far this one is my favorite. The tartness of the cranberries, the hint of orange from the zest combined with the pecans is heavenly. Next time I make this (and this will be made at least one time if not more this holiday season) I will try adding the glaze. But I can assure you, even without the glaze this is a fabulous sweet bread!

Cranberry Orange Pecan Sweet Bread…

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

Streusel:

1/4 cup (31g) flour

2 Tbs. (30g) sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 Tbs. (45g) cold, unsalted butter

Bread:

2 cups (250g) flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (110g) chopped fresh cranberries (you can also use unthawed frozen cranberries)

1/2 cup (65g) chopped pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)

1 large room temperature egg

1/2 cup (105g) light brown sugar (loosely packed for high altitude)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar (slightly less for high altitude)

1 cup (240ml) buttermilk (no substitutions)

1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil – I used vegetable oil)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbs. orange zest

Glaze:

1 cup (120g) confectioners sugar

1 -2 TBS orange juice

Orange zest to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8×4 pan with cooking spray. (I use a professional grade non-stick pan and do not have to do this. Invest in one if you can – it’s worth it).

First make the streusel by tossing the flour, sugar and cinnamon together. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or food processor until you get a crumbly looking mixture. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt cranberries and nuts together. Set aside. In another bowl whisk the egg and sugars until well combined with no lumps. Whisk in the buttermilk, oil, vanilla and orange zest.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir together until combined being careful not to over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Add the streusel on top and press it gently into the batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove the bread from the pan.

This bread is great without the glaze. If you choose to glaze it, mix all of the glaze ingredients together and pour on top once the bread has completely cooled.

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