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       THANKSGIVING is my perfect holiday--- all food, all day. We all have our favorite dishes. And I used to grapple with whether or not I should SWITCH IT UP? But breaking the "Thanksgiving Rules" by veering off of the family's food traditions never, ever worked. So I'm not going to try to sell you on some new fangled way to cook your turkey, stuffing, potatoes or pies. DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING! It's best that way. But I can't help myself from adding something new to the table each year.
       I love cranberries. And, I will always keep that beloved Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce on our table. I mean who can resist the tart/sweet, perfectly round slices decorated with those indispensible little ridges from the can. We always take it one step further too, and have to slice the slippery rounds in half, so they flop and wiggle around the serving dish. I know it's not gourmet, but the "Thanksgiving Rules" specifically state that we must have it on the table!
       Yet I'm always eager to experiment. So one year, I thought I might try to add some extra cranberries. Wolfgang Puck has a pumpkin pie recipe where you make an homemade cranberry sauce that you spread on the unbaked crust before filling it with the pumpkin custard to bake. It sounded good, but the cranberries simply refused to cooperate in that pie. Still, the sauce alone was delicious and ended up morphing into a yearly regular at our table. It's very, very easy to make, and definitely worth your time. Simply add all of the ingredients to the pot and cook until the cranberries pop and the mixture thickens. I've tweaked it over the years. Feel free to do that as well. You could add walnuts, or orange marmalade, or kick it up with some cayenne, just to suggest a few ideas. And don't forget to spread it on turkey sandwiches the next day!

LESSONS Learned:
1. You can make this way in advance, up to 2 weeks ahead of the big day.
2. Don't just dump the bag of cranberries into the pot. Make sure you take the time to sort through the cranberries and remove any mushy ones.
3. Stay close to that pot, stirring often. I just stir the mixture from beginning to end. Not all the berries will pop on their own. So, I get to pop those--very satisfying.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
(originally inspired by Wolfgang Puck)

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon orange zest
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch salt
12 ounces fresh cranberries, picked through and washed
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or more to taste
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the cranberry sauce:
       In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, add all of the ingredients, except the vanilla. Cook, stirring continuously, until the berries pop and the mixture has thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and extra maple syrup to taste if you like. Chill. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 2 cups. YUM!
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