Sometimes you just need a little cheer.
The colder holiday season is always a little rough for me. It’s when my Crohn’s Disease likes to rear its ugly head. I’m not sure if it’s because of the lack of sunlight (hello vitamin D supplements!), the richer foods we turn to for comfort, or the stress of doing everything just so at this busier time of year, but in the past, I typically had have a flare up sometime between October and February. I’m trying to prevent that from happening this year. Learning to listen to my body and know when I’m approaching that frazzled feeling (and allowing myself to slow down) has been vital to staying healthy.
This year, I thought I was doing better. You know, between supporting my mom through her breast cancer trials (chemo, radiation, mastectomy), my husband through his unnamed-but-still-as-real viral illness, my grandmother through her colonectomy, keeping the bake shop afloat, buying a house and moving, then managing a remodel on said house, and hosting 14 people over for Thanksgiving… But I can admit it. I am feeling run down. And so weary. I have been conserving my energy, simply because I don’t have that much to give. I have realized that I am becoming more introverted, preferring time spent at home to that going out an socializing. And when I feel inspired, I am baking more and playing with recipes in my new kitchen. It makes everything cozier, warmer, and cheerier.
This year at Thanksgiving, we hosted a potluck style super casual dinner. I made a turkey (roasted upside down, oops!), dinner rolls, crostini, cranberry compote, vanilla bean ice cream, cinnamon ice cream, cranberry sorbert, brie en croute (a wheel of brie enclosed in flaky pastry crust!), Cranbosa’s (cranberry mimosas made with aforementioned sorbet), and fig jam-glazed Brussels sprouts. My guests brought everything else. It made for a very relaxed day cooking. Well, except for the fact that my new oven should have roasted the turkey in 5 or 6 hours (since it was still partially frozen), but it cooked through in only 2 1/2 hours. And yes, I checked with 2 different probe thermometers in 5 different spots on the bird and it was done!
The cranberry compote was DELICIOUS. I’m glad I made a huge batch of it because I had enough to use it with goat cheese topped crostini, serve as a side, spin into sorbet, AND still make these Cranberry Cheer Bars for an after-thanksgiving repurpose leftovers dessert.
The beauty of these bars is that they are really delicious, and easy to make. Start with the cranberry compote. It has two steps involved (mix the ingredients, then heat), it freezes well, and it keeps for over a week in the fridge. If you make extra, you can do as I did, and blend some of the compote in your food processor or blender and then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions. It makes wonderful sorbet- a little sweet and a little tart. Or swirl some compote into your vanilla ice cream in the final stages of freezing. The possibilities are numerous.
- 1 cup (8 ounces) butter, browned and cooled completely
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup millet flour
- 1 cup sweet white rice flour
- 1 cup tapioca flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- Brown the butter over medium heat and let cool to room temperature (butter will solidify, but will be brown and smell nutty. Don't skip this step: it provides a lovely deep flavor!
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 13x9 inch casserole pan with gluten-free pan spray and line with parchment baking paper. Set aside.
- In a food processor, blend together the fresh rosemary and the sugar to finely chop the rosemary and release the oil into the sugar.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cooled browned butter on high speed until light and creamy and then add the rosemary sugar. Beat until fluffy and creamy and several shades lighter.
- In a small bowl, mix together the millet flour, sweet white rice flour, tapioca flour and salt and then add half the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mix. Mix on low speed until mostly combined and then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mix and combine on low speed. Press two-thirds of the cookie base into the baking pan, reserving the remaining third of the dough. Bake until lightly golden brown and set to the touch, about 35-40 minutes.
- In a deep skillet, heat together the cranberries with the sugar, orange juice, chopped candied ginger, and dried cranberries over high heat until the liquid boils, the sugar dissolves, and the cranberries burst open.
- Drop heat to medium-low and continue to stir occasionally until the mixture thickens up.
- Spread cranberry compote over the baked cookie bar base and dot the top with the remaining third of the cookie dough.
- Bake until the cookie top is lightly golden and set, about 15-20 minutes.
- Let cool completely before cutting.
- Serve alone or with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.