Allspice Chronicles

Entertain like a Queen, Think Lean and Live Green! A personal collection of recipes,anecdotes,and good old fashioned advice…

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Cranberry Nut Bread

by Danica Waters / photo credits at bottom of post

 

I will never forget the day I first tried my hand at making cranberry bread.  I’d discovered this fantastic heirloom recipe in a fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine, and I was particularly excited because I happened to be experiencing one of those rare, breathtaking moments when the house was gleaming, the laundry was done, the kids were clean and contentedly immersed in their paper dolls upstairs, and the groceries were in-house – all before it started to snow.

I put some CD’s on shuffle, pulled out all the ingredients, and prepared for a fun afternoon of baking.  All was going swimmingly well until I actually pondered the recipe.

 

It said to put the fresh cranberries with the sugar and orange peel in a pot, and bring it to a boil.

 

No water.

 

No butter.

 

Just cranberries, orange peel, and sugar.

 

Something had to be wrong.

 

Call me crazy, but fresh cranberries look like little red leather balls.  They don’t squirt when you pinch them.  Having never worked with fresh cranberries before, I cut one open just to see if I was missing something.

 

Nope.

 

It was still the equivalent of a little red leather ball.

 

I’ll admit I am a person who tends to over-think things.  I also will reluctantly admit to having a few trust issues, which I personally prefer to label “Critical Thinking”. And my Critical Thinking Cap was spinning with visions of little red leather balls coated in a goopy sugar-brittle mess that would take weeks to clean.  Heaven knows there was nothing to keep the mixture from sticking to the pan!

 

I called my mom to see if she had any insight into the world of cranberries, certain that the recipe was missing a step or some ingredients or something.  Mom told me I had trust issues, and I should just do what the recipe said to do.

 

I told her I would enlist her assistance in cleaning up the mess if it didn’t work.

 

She said to bring her a loaf when it did.

 

It did.

The insides of those little red leather balls melted like butter once I turned on the heat; the internal pressure made the skins “pop”, and my terror visions of singed sugar-brittle turned into a ruby-colored mash that made the whole house smell like Christmas.  I was ecstatic.

 

So now we know.  And I have pictures to prove it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe is an annual favorite.   It is a rich, moist, dark bread with the perfect balance of sweet-tart and savory, and it is equally delicious with a smear of cream cheese on top as it is served all by itself.  Best of all, it takes mere minutes to make, and it freezes ahead like a charm.

 

Enjoy!

 

Cranberry Nut Bread

(Taste of Home Magazine, December/January 1995 issue)

 

2-1/2 C halved fresh or frozen cranberries, divided (note:  over the years, I’ve taken to leaving my cranberries whole – it gives a chunkier, jewel-studded texture to the bread)

2/3 C sugar

2 tsp grated orange peel

2-1/4 C all-purpose flour

¾ C light brown sugar

1 Tbsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¾ C sour cream

¼ C butter or margarine, melted

1 C chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans preferred)

 

In a saucepan, combine 1-1/2 cups cranberries, sugar, and orange peel.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the cranberries are soft.  Remove from the heat; stir in the remaining berries and set aside.

In a bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.  Combine eggs, sour cream and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients until blended.  Fold in cranberries and pecans.  Pour into two greased 8-1/2 in x 4-1/2 in x 2-1/2 in loaf pans (mini loaf pans and muffin tins work, too – just adjust your baking time accordingly!).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests done.

 

Photo Credits:

Cranberry photo courtesy www.vegetarian-nutrition.info via Google images

All other graphics by the Allspice Chronicles

 

Posted November 16th, 2011.

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Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

by Danica Waters / nature photos courtesy of www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm

 

I first discovered this recipe about ten years ago, in the back of an issue of Taste of Home magazine.  It was October, the aspen were ablaze in the Colorado high country and I was excitedly planning an annual autumn picnic for a large group of friends and family.  Although our family made frequent pilgrimages to the mountains throughout the year, our October excursion was special in a spiritual sort of way.

 

In the lush valleys of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, October heralds the return of the giant elk as they descend from higher elevations to mate and prepare for the onset of winter.  It is a humbling, transfixing ritual to observe, as old as time and as beautifully executed as a waltz in a king’s court.

 

On this particular October excursion, we arrived with enough time to spend the day hiking, and, of course, daring each other to dip our toes in the ice-cold burbling streams.   Finally, as the late afternoon chill set in, we returned to the small parking lot on the far side of the meadows. Wet, shivering children got tucked into clean, dry socks and loads of blankets; hearty picnic dinner offerings were devoured and steaming cups of hot cocoa were passed around as we, and the many other nature-lovers around us, waited for the elk to appear.

 

Venus twinkled over Long’s Peak, shining like a  diamond in the deepening periwinkle sky; then, as if by magic, the soft sounds of laughter and conversation suddenly gave way to reverent silence with the first sighting of a bull elk. He appeared from the shadowy depths of the forest and walked slowly and deliberately into the meadow, completely aware of and unfazed by our presence; we were mere courtiers in the presence of a King.

 

He assumed his position center stage in the tall grasses and stood magnificently still, waiting.  Then, on an impulse, he thrust his head back and let out a haunting, lonely cry that reverberated all the way through the valley.  The ensuing silence was nothing short of deafening; it was as though every molecule of every being in the entire valley had been suspended in time.

 

Ever-so-slowly, from the forest shadows appeared the does.  With almost-choreographed precision, they made their way, one by one, in front of the group of onlookers and then past the King, only to disappear back into the trees on the opposite side of the meadow.  After the last doe had made her appearance, the King turned and followed them, swallowed by the shadows of nightfall.

 

The whole experience was like a dream; we had to sit a minute to digest what we’d just seen.  Kids being kids, they decided this was the perfect opportunity to remind me that we hadn’t yet served dessert.  I absentmindedly broke out these little cupcakes, and suddenly realized I was experiencing another kind of dream, because that same sudden, magical hush fell over everyone in our group as they took their first bite.  Even the kids were quiet.  No joke.

 

Need some magic?  Try these.   Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes are the best cupcakes in the WORLD.  They have no frosting.  Instead, they have chunks of chocolate and walnuts baked into a peek-a-boo cream cheese center. Not too sweet, modestly decadent, easily transportable, and visually stunning; this is the perfect cupcake to make for every occasion.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Creamy Chocolate Cupcakes

Taste of Home August/September 1994

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

¼ C baking cocoa

½ tsp salt

2 eggs lightly beaten

¾ C water

1/3 C vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Filling:

 

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 C sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/8 tsp salt

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1 C chopped walnuts

 

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Add the eggs, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla; mix well.  Pour into 18 greased or paper lined muffin cups.  For filling, beat cream cheese and sugar in another mixing bowl.  Add egg and salt; mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake.  Sprinkle with nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

 

Posted October 7th, 2011.

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