Cranberry Fruit Salad

Over the years my Mom's Thanksgiving cranberry salad has become the stuff of legend. There have been countless times where I have been asked "did your Mom bring her cranberry salad" or "do you have the recipe she uses?"

For me, it has just been a Thanksgiving staple that I'm used to, like her buckeyes at Christmas, so it didn't have the aura that many in the family experienced, so I guess I have taken it for granted. I was asked about it again recently, so I decided to investigate.

I asked Mom about the recipe and it originated with my late Grandma. After she passed away, my Mom picked up the tradition of making it for Thanksgiving. It was a way of bringing her presence to Thanksgiving each year and passing her legacy on to new generations of the family.

Grandma passed away in 1978 when Mom was just 26. Despite her young age, she had helped her prepare for Thanksgiving several times and had learned the recipe. They didn't have a food processor at that time and used a meat grinder to process the fruits. According to Mom, the grinder would cause the cranberries to burst and splatter red juice everywhere. I can only imagine that this made the kitchen counter look like a murder scene and any apron or shirt look like a Thanksgiving tie-die.

The recipe is easy - especially with the help of a food processor - and requires no real cooking. Just heating water. 

After making it myself and putting it under the microscope, I had a hard time calling it just "Cranberry Salad." Cranberries are the main ingredient, but its flavor is a medley of fruits. So I modified the name a bit to include "Fruit." 

It's an All-star Thanksgiving treat, and probably the easiest make ahead dish in any holiday spread. It can be topped with whip cream for extra decadence or easily modified to suit a particular flavor profile.

For me, this is a chance to pass on what my Mom started over 40 years ago when we had to begin celebrating Thanksgiving without Grandma. 

Not only is this a delicious addition to a Thanksgiving spread but it is also a memorial. 

Grandma passed when I was only 5, but I still have fond memories of her, and although I don't remember her serving this salad specifically, I do remember her putting a warm pancake on my ear when I had an earache. I can't remember if it worked, but it probably gave her a break from the hysterical fit I was likely throwing at the time.

Eat well, cook often ...

12 oz. Fresh Cranberries
2 1/2 C Hot Water
1 lg. box (6 oz) Strawberry Jello
1/2 C Sugar
1 1/2 C Walnuts
1 can (20 oz) Crushed Pineapple
1 Apple peeled, cored, chopped
1 Orange peeled
Zest of Orange

Process Fruit; Dissolve Jello Mix and Sugar
In a food processor, pulse cranberries, apple, orange and orange zest until finely chopped and thoroughly mixed. In a large serving bowl stir together hot water, strawberry jello mix and sugar until completely dissolved.

Mix Together; Refrigerate and Serve
Stir processed fruit mixture, pineapple and walnuts into jello liquid until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before meal, remove from refrigerator, uncover and serve.           

Frankenfries: Bringing dead french fries to life


Leftover french fries from a restaurant are pretty much horrific from the fridge the next day, and a blitz in the microwave does little to restore them to their former glory. Because of this, I usually never take fries in my to-go package if I have leftovers when I'm out to eat.

That has changed. 

While I would never go to the trouble of crisping up leftover fries in a pan on the stove top as a side to a meal, I will use them as a potato element in an omelet or frittata. I try to only use thicker cut fries though, so that the inside doesn't dryout and harden during the crisping process that gives them a culinary after-life.

A second fry in a little oil, as well as adding other flavor elements, helps to mask the leftover flavors that inevitably permeate the once decadent crispy spuds after a night in the tundra of the fridge. The heavy seasoning on the majority of restaurant fries is also a bonus when added to the mix. 

For this recipe, I surround day-old french fries with the elements commonly found on loaded potatoes - onion, bacon and cheese - and bind them all together with eggs. The result is a tasty treat that will have you feeling like Victor Frankenstein after just bringing new life to the dead and cold leftovers of yesterday's french fries.

Eat well, cook often


Serves 4; 30 minutes 

4 strips Bacon diced
1 C Leftover French Fries diced
8 Eggs whisked
1 Green Onion sliced
1/2 C Cheddar Cheese shredded

Saute Bacon; Crisp Fries
Preheat broiler.
In an oven-safe skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Add french fries and cook until crisp and golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add Eggs; Finish
Pour eggs into pan, sprinkle in cheese, green onion and reserved bacon. Cook until bottom is set, 4 minutes. Place skillet under broiler and cook until top is set and frittata is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from broiler, slice and serve.                                    

Spaghetti Carbonara


Well, it's been a while. 

I'm still publishing recipes - just exclusively for print! Behind the Bites is alive and well - and syndicated! It's not as big as Dear Abby, but it does pay for itself.

I hope to keep growing the print column and expand to a bigger web presence but that will take more resources than I have at my disposal currently. I have a vision for what a new digital component will look like, but that will take time to implement.

For now, I will try and post more recipes here, but I will need to get my rhythm back for it and that may take a while because it's not the focus of my efforts. 

Just thought it was a good time to share a taste.

In all my years of cooking I had never made spaghetti carbonara. 

Well, that has changed - and it's awesome!

The secret to this dish is contained in the residual heat of the spaghetti noodle and a frantic stir in the egg-parmesan mixture. The heat and constant movement creates a creamy sauce coating for the noodle that is simple but divine. Its taste is subtle but that makes the compliments - pepper, bacon and chives here - stand out.

Honestly, if you like to cook you should add this dish to your arsenal. I guarantee that being able to whip this together at a moments notice will impress whoever you are feeding.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 25 minutes
1 box (1 lb.) Spaghetti
4 Eggs
1 C Parmesan Cheese, fresh grated
2 tsp Black Pepper, fresh cracked
4 slices Bacon, cooked, crumbled

Cook Pasta
Bring four quarts of water to boil in a large pot, add salt to taste. Once boiling, submerge spaghetti and cook 10 minutes for al dente. Then drain.

Prepare, Finish
While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, cheese and pepper until well incorporated in a large bowl. Immediately after draining pasta, vigorously stir it into the egg mixture, moving constantly, until a creamy coating has formed on the noodles. Stir in bacon, then serve, garnish with chives and fresh grated parmesan if desired.