Move Over, Pumpkin Spice!

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Cranberries' bright pop of color and tart flavor make them a beautiful focal point and complimentary companion to many seasonal favorites. In the fall, you can find then fresh at the grocery store. (They freeze well, too, right in the bag in which you bought them.) Here are several easy ways to incorporate these nutrient-packed little gems into your carte du jour:

 Cranberry Maple Syrup: Heat maple syrup and fresh cranberries to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When cranberries pop and become translucent, remove from heat. Serve with oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, ice cream, vanilla yogurt, use as a glaze for pork loin, meat balls, or chicken; or drizzle over a warmed round of Brie and serve with crackers or toasted French bread.

Cranberry-infused Vodka: Simmer one cup of sugar with twelve ounces of fresh cranberries until the sugar is syrupy, but the berries are still fairly firm. Using a funnel, pour mixture into a sterile jar or bottle, and then pour a fifth of vodka on top. Steep for a week or more in the refrigerator, and strain cranberries out before using. (They'll be delicious in a loaf of cranberry bread!) Mix your infused vodka with club soda and a sprig of rosemary or a splash of orange juice for a festive fall cocktail.

Roasted Cranberries: Whether you are roasting vegetables, like Brussels Sprouts, sweet potatoes, or squash; or a spiral-cut ham or other cut of pork or chicken, a handful of cranberries thrown into the pan will add flavor and color.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Cranberries' tartness makes them a perfect counterpoint in sweet desserts. Use walnuts, dark chocolate, and chopped fresh or dried cranberries in your favorite biscotti, brownie, or chocolate chip cookie recipe for a treat that's decadent, yet not without merit, health-wise.

Written by Jennifer Reynolds, West Michigan Woman's staff writer and a kitchen aficionado.


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