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“Well, THAT was unexpected,” I thought to myself. A sigh escaped my lips. “I don’t even know what to do with this information.”

With one sentence my grandmother had rattled my entire worldview. Alright, that might be the teensiest bit melodramatic but I had been prepared for age-old wisdom from generations past to be handed down to me and that didn’t happen. I was a senior in college and had been invited to a Thanksgiving meal at the home of a guy I was newly dating. I was to bring a pie. I had never made a pie in my life….let alone contributed anything ever to a major holiday meal. It seemed like a big deal. The food on the Thanksgiving table is steeped in tradition. I didn’t want to mess it up.  I figured a phone call to grandma for her pie crust recipe would ensure success. (Never mind that I don’t like pie crust. Meeting other people’s Thanksgiving expectations was on the line.) Certain it would be something her mother had taught her and her mother had taught her etc. etc. I was prepared to be inducted into some kind of sacred family pie crust making tradition. These were her words to me “Oh honey, these days the store bought ones are so good I never make them from scratch any more. You can get them in the refrigerated section.”

WHAT?!? Grandma BOUGHT her pie crust? Isn’t that against some kind of grandmotherly rule?  (I know, there are no grandmother rules. My girls have a grandmother who is a triathlete for crying out loud, but cut me some slack. I felt as though I had just been cheated out of some Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-Era family cooking secrets.)

Determined to make everything from scratch, I eventually got over the shock of grandma’s confession and managed to find a recipe I couldn’t wait to try….complete with extra special pie crust instructions. I made a Cranberry-Orange Pie with a spiced pie crust. I even used the extra crust to make little pie crust leaves that I laid on top of the pie as it cooked to make it all fancy and decorative. They were no Martha-Stewart quality leaves, but I was proud of my little pie. Still, I felt it could use some tweaking. This is the first recipe I ever messed with. Previously I stuck to a recipe like it was my lifeline. I guess you could say it is a monumental recipe in my cooking career. Too melodramatic again? Well, at the very least, it holds a special place in my heart.

Our family Thanksgiving tradition seems to be that there IS no Thanksgiving tradition. We have fun trying new recipes…sometimes we make healthier versions of traditional dishes and sometimes we go totally decadent. The one thing I can’t seem to let go of is the Cranberry-Orange Pie. I’ve tweaked and changed it so many times over the years that I genuinely can’t remember what the original recipe was. I DO know it involved the basic ingredients: cranberries, apples, dried figs, and orange zest. Ratios, sweeteners, thickeners and everything else in between have been changed half a dozen times or more. Most recently I replaced processed sugar with maple syrup and turned it into a crisp. I think I MAY just STOP tweaking it for good. Because this crisp is good. Really good. Really really good. The house smells like fall and the flavors make my heart and tummy feel warm and happy. 🙂

I changed the name to better reflect the ingredients. The topping is modified slightly from Clean Eating and we love it so much I will never use another crisp topping in my life! It calls for dates in place of sugar. Do you have family or kids who don’t like dates? Don’t tell them. I promise you, they will NOT be able to tell. Lilly thinks she doesn’t like dates but she LOVES this stuff. Andy has even chopped up dates to put in our pancakes and we tell her they are “brown sugar pancakes.” She gobbles them up. Shhhhhh 😀

Whether you make this for Thanksgiving, a dinner party, or a quiet fall evening at home, I hope it makes your heart and your tummy feel warm and happy too…

Maple Cranberry Apple Crisp

  • 2 cups roughly chopped fresh cranberries
  • 4 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I usually use Granny Smith, but have also used Gala)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup good quality real maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp triple sec
  • 1 generous tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 2-3 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • TOPPING INGREDIENTS LISTED BELOW

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Mix together all ingredients above in a large bowl. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and pour berry and apple mixture into the dish. Place in the oven for 25 minutes uncovered.

I was making this for a tea party so I made some individual ramekins, a small to-go container for our guest to take some home, and small casserole dish for our family the next day. The pictures are a mixture of the various sizes:DSC_0166

While the berry mixture is cooking, making topping:

For the topping:

  • 10 pitted unsweetened medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup whole oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp real maple syrup
  • pinch of salt

Place dates in a food processor and pulse  a couple of times to roughly chop the dates. Add all remaining ingredients and pulse until combined.

Remove baking dish from the oven and spread topping evenly over the berry mixture. Return to oven and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. (Alternatively you could put the crumble on top to start with and cover the crisp tightly with foil after the initial 25 minutes to keep it from browning too much. Just keep an eye on it to make sure the topping doesn’t get too dark.)

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