Cranberry Muffins with Orange Zest and Pecans

Yesterday, my sister-in-law, Terry, asked me to post my recipe for cranberry nut muffins. I had completely forgotten about these flavor-packed muffins!

The ingredients include a lovely mix of cranberries, pecans, orange zest, and cinnamon.

An interesting tidbit about cranberries — each cranberry has four interior chambers that hold pockets of air.

The air pockets allow the berries to float, a characteristic farmers use to their advantage when it comes time to harvest.

During the spring and summer, the berries grow in fields called bogs. In the fall, farmers flood the bogs and use a harvesting machine to dislodge the berries that then float to the surface. There is more to the story that can be found here.

In most recipes calling for cranberries, you can use fresh or frozen. I would not use dried cranberries which are sweetened and have lost much of their nutritional value in the process. For this batch of muffins, I used last year’s frozen berries because that is what I had on hand. When using frozen berries, do not defrost them before measuring or chopping. If you see a berry that is shriveled up, discard it.

I used self-rising flour. If you do not have any, substitute with 2 cups of regular flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of fine salt.

Yield: 12 small or 8 large muffins.

Ingredients:


1¼ cup whole cranberries
⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ cup pecan halves
zest from ½ half a medium orange

1 large egg
¾ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups (8½ oz.) self-rising flour, (measured using the spoon and level method)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup butter, softened and sliced

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375º. Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease each muffin cup.

Place cranberries, ⅓ cup of sugar, pecans, and orange zest in a food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are rough-chopped. Be careful not to over-process.

Measure milk in a liquid measuring cup. Add egg and vanilla to the cup. Whisk ingredients together.

Place flour, cinnamon, and ⅓ cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk these dry ingredients together. Add butter slices. Using a wire pastry blender, combine ingredients until there are no more large clumps of butter. See photo below for guidance on what the texture should look like.

Gently stir in milk mixture until just blended. Fold in cranberry mixture. For a light and airy muffin, stir as little as possible.

Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to fill the muffin cups. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of sugar over each muffin to crisp up the top when baked. If making large muffins, use a whole teaspoon of sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle oven rack. Muffins are done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If you would like to brown the tops a little more, move tin to the upper oven rack and bake for 3 more minutes.

Thank you, Terry, for reminding me about these muffins! I’m glad to have the recipe at my fingertips, again.

Check out the Thanksgiving Menu for Tday dinner ideas.

Other Cranberry Recipes:
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Hot Pepper Jelly or Cranberry Brie Bites
Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney
Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard), Toasted Pine Nuts and Cranberries
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts, and Cranberries
Sorghum, Oats, and Cranberry Granola
Oats, Sorghum, Ginger and Cranberry Cookies

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© 2014-2019 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Holiday Inn: Feeding a Houseful

Say you have a house full of people over the next week or two and you need to keep the meals rolling out. Or, maybe you have been tasked with bringing part of a meal to someone’s house for a vacation gathering. I’ve made a list of some of my favorites. The Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant is the most labor intensive, but many readers noted they substituted cooked Italian sausage for the eggplant and an easy meal was ready in no time. I’ve included my fifteen-minute recipe for marinara sauce for a quick bowl of pasta, too.

Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers

 

 

Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce 

 

 

Yummy Shepherd’s Pie

 

 

Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf

 

 

@judyschickens Marinara Sauce

 

 

I like to make one of these delicious, crowd-pleasing chilis when I have a lot of people to feed. The Buffalo Chicken Chili is super quick, especially if you use rotisserie chicken for the meat.

Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili

 

 

My Favorite Silver Palate Chili

 

 

If you are a duck hunter or know someone who is, chances are their freezers are full of ducks. Ask for a few; I’m sure your hunter friends will share. This stew, served over a wedge of hot cornbread, is divine.

Kelly’s Duck Stew

 

 

If you are a making a turkey dinner for Christmas, check out the recipes for sides under Thanksgiving Week. Note the no-fail make-ahead gravy recipe. You’ll see why reader Susie Ries traveled to her daughter’s house in Wisconsin with a Knorr’s chicken bouillon cube packed in her suitcase.

Foolproof Make-Ahead Gravy

 

 

It wouldn’t be a holiday meal in a big Italian family without batter-fried cauliflower. This is one of the most popular recipes on the blog. I love the festive Brie Bites, too. They take about fifteen minutes to assemble and bake.

Auntie’s Italian Fried Cauliflower

 

 

 

Hot Pepper Jelly and Pecan Brie Bites

 

 

Special morning breakfasts call for special crowd-pleasing foods. Here are a few of our favorites:

Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970

 

 

 

The Biscuit King

 

 

50 Ways to Make a Breakfast Frittata

 

 

Fruit and Nut Bread

 

 

Desserts are my favorite food to cook. These Italian Sesame Seed cookies are not too sweet, easy to make, great dunked in coffee, and last for a long time in a sealed container. After a warm chocolate chip cookie, they are my favorite cookie on the planet. The Ricotta and Lemon Cookies are heavenly, as well.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

 

 

Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies

 

 

If you are looking for ideas for foods to bring in the New Year, don’t forget to include collard greens, black-eyed peas, and pork. The greens represent the color of money and thus, economic fortune, the peas (lentils, in the Italian tradition) represent coins, and plump pigs represent prosperity. Here are the tried and true recipes I make every New Year’s Day.

Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard), Toasted Pine Nuts and Cranberries

 

 

Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad

 

 

Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

 

 

It’s easy to spruce up your dining room table with greens from the yard. I took a walk with my dear friend, Lou Ann Brown and we came up with this post.

Winter Floral Arrangements Using Greenery from the Yard

 

 

 

Happy cooking and happy holidays to you and yours!

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Always check this website for the most up to date version of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Every Saturday morning, my husband, the dog and I head over to Richland Farmers Market, a happening and energetic place to shop in Nashville for organic vegetables and locally made food products. I am drawn to this market by both the variety of vegetables offered and the enthusiastic farmers, bakers, butchers, beekeepers, and fromagers who show up every weekend.

Last week, while visiting Corner Spring Farm’s booth, owner Marianne Cameron suggested I try the Japanese sweet potatoes she and her husband had grown. She told me they had a creamy and moist interior when cooked. The potatoes are oblong and have smudgy-red skin and white flesh.

I roasted them with an equal amount of regular sweet potatoes, chopped rosemary, salt, garlic pepper, and olive oil. Marianne was right, the interior of the Japanese potatoes was soooo creamy and delicious. I couldn’t get over the texture. I served them for dinner with Mom’s Meatloaf and blanched thick and meaty green beans — my favorite kind of dinner.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
1 pound sweet potatoes, unpeeled
1 pound Japanese sweet potatoes, unpeeled
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon McCormick’s California Style Garlic Pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425º

Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into 1½-in chunks. Arrange on a parchment-lined rimmed, sheet pan. Strip rosemary leaves from stems and chop. Sprinkle over potatoes. Add olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper. Toss ingredients together until well blended. Roast for 45 minutes on the middle rack of oven.

The Japanese sweet potatoes were so yummy, I went to Whole Foods to look for another popular variety I had been reading about, Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes. I thought, together, the color combo would be exciting. Stokes Purples look like Japanese sweet potatoes on the outside, but the interior is solid purple. I cooked them using the same recipe as above. The colors were beautiful.

Sadly, I wasn’t as wild about the flavor of the roasted Stokes Purples. With the remaining three pounds of purple potatoes I had bought, I had another idea: make mashed purple sweet potatoes!

They were delicious. I used my recipe for Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes, substituting the Stokes Purples for the all-purpose potatoes. The mashed sweet potatoes were sweet, buttery, creamy, and eye-poppingly colorful and would sure look different on the Thanksgiving Day table! Speaking of which, Thanksgiving is eleven days away. Take a look at the list of recipes I’ve put together here!

Today is the fourth anniversary of Judy’s Chickens! It all started here!

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Karen’s Foolproof Make-Ahead Gravy

I love nothing more in life than to sit around the dinner table with friends and family of all generations and enjoy a meal filled with storytelling, good food, and laughs. I particularly love Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve because of the traditions and feelings of anticipation and gratitude that go with them.

To get to the actual serving of the Thanksgiving dinner, I have to pass through a few cooking hurdles. For instance, I suffer from indecision everytime I cut into the turkey thigh to test for doneness. Are the juices truly running clear, or are they still ever so slightly pink?

And then there is the gravy. So much mystery there.

If it’s not lumps, it’s blandness. Making a velvety smooth, full-bodied gravy has eluded me for years. It is the reason why, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the crazy hour before dinner, I nonchalantly ask, “Who wants to make the gravy?” as if it were an afterthought instead of a worry. Thankfully, there is always someone who volunteers, often, my husband Kelly and his mother.

This week, I was talking food with my good friend Karen Rolen, a joyful, spunky woman originally from Montgomery, Alabama. I asked her if she knew how to make gravy. She confidently and enthusiastically said, “Yes, I’ve been making it my whole life; where I come from, gravy is considered a BEVERAGE!”  Her written instructions arrived the next morning.

“Make a light brown roux* with equal parts butter and all-purpose flour. I probably use ¼ to ½ stick of butter.  Add hot turkey drippings and fonds** if you have them. Have two cups or so of heated chicken broth ready, and even if it’s good and homemade, have “Knorrs” or “Better Than Bullion” chicken base available for salt and seasoning later on. Slowly, stir broth into the roux and drippings and boil them on medium-high until you get the consistency you want. Season to taste with lots of ground black pepper and chicken bullion. It’s usually good enough to drink!”

*To learn what a roux is, check out Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo and learn why you should save the turkey carcass and trimmings this year.

**Fond is French for “base” and means the bits and pieces of browned meat or vegetables left in a pan after roasting or frying.

My goal was to tweak Karen’s instructions to create a flavorful and dependable gravy you could make a few days or hours before the holiday dinner.

Yield: Makes three cups (this recipe is easily doubled or cut in half)

Ingredients: 

½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 quart) heated boxed or homemade chicken broth
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¾ to 1½ squares of Knorr Chicken Bullion (for “seasoning to taste”)

Instructions:
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a whisk, stir in the flour.

Stir continuously over medium heat until the roux starts to change color, usually about three minutes, give or take a few seconds. The picture on the left was taken at 2½ minutes. The one on the right was taken at three.
 

Think of the roux’s darkening color as “toasting” the flour. The roux should be medium brown when done. This cooking of the flour is what gives gravy its depth of flavor and that desired taste of nuttiness. I promise, if this is your first time making a roux, you are going to feel very accomplished as a cook once you make this gravy.

As soon as the roux changes color, whisk in the broth to stop the roux from cooking any longer. Whisk and simmer for about five minutes until the gravy thickens.

Stick with it, don’t let the flour stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, do not adjust the seasonings until after the gravy has finished cooking because as the liquid evaporates the flavors will concentrate.

“Salt and Pepper to Taste”
Add the pepper first because it is easier to adjust. Next, instead of adding salt, Karen and I use Knorr’s bullion cubes for flavoring. The amount you need will depend on variables such as whether you use unsalted or salted butter and regular or low-sodium chicken broth.

To successfully “season to taste,” cut the Knorr bouillon cube into four quarters. Add one quarter at a time until you hit that magical point where the gravy suddenly tastes beautifully rich.

Notice how velvety smooth the gravy is.

Reheat the gravy in a saucepan just before serving. Feel free to add strained juices from the roasting pan, if desired.

If you wish to make your own chicken stock, consider these two posts to learn how: Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones and Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited

My friend, Renée, whose family likes to fry their turkey every year, reminds me there are no drippings for gravy-making when deep frying a turkey, so plan accordingly.

Epilogue
Thanks to Karen Rolen for teaching me how to make gravy. I’ll think of her every Thanksgiving when I make it. Once I got Karen’s recipe adapted for this post, I took a sample of the gravy to my friends. They each tasted it and agreed it was indeed sippable! Thanks, Mary, Susie, Corabel, Jane, and Mary for being taste-testers.

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.