Mini cranberry muffins served with orange slices. One uses the orange rind in the recipe, might as well eat the orange slices with the orangey tasting cranberry muffins.
Mini cranberry muffins served with orange slices. One uses the orange rind in the recipe, might as well eat the orange slices with the orangey tasting cranberry muffins.
I like cranberries, but it isn't so easy to find the perfect cranberry recipe. A year ago, after visiting the Stone Lake Cranberry Festival in Wisconsin, I created various cranberry preserves.

My favorite was cranberry ketchup. I know that sounds odd, especially when one realizes there are no tomatoes in the ketchup. It is actually a mixture of cooked cranberries, vinegar, sugar and spices. It works great as a smear for ham or turkey sandwiches.

Although I enjoy using it, the preserve hasn't grabbed the interest of others in my family. I also tried two different cranberry conserve recipes, plus made a batch of cranberry apple jam. In the end, I had purchased two big red-netted five pound bags of cranberries.

The first bag was peddled to me right in the parking lot when I reached the festival. The second I picked up a week or so later on a return trip to our cabin.

This year, I thought I probably didn't need to make any more cranberry preserves, but it was hard resisting the salesmanship of the young men peddling the bags from a school bus. And so convenient! There was no need to carry berries around all day long, no, they were conveniently left in our car. So I got another bag, which is still nearly full, a week and a half later.

I decided to make a double batch of cranberry conserves, using the recipe I liked best. But each day I plan to mix it up, something else happens and I run out of time each evening, so it hasn't happened yet.

Actually, I have been trying cranberry quick bread recipes, hoping to find one that could be printed with my column. It may be that I over-baked the cranberry banana bread, but I nixed that combo. Actually, I realized it would have been better using my favorite banana bread recipe and adding chopped cranberries to it. My recipe includes sour cream, which makes it a delightfully moist bread.

Tonight with another recipe, found on the wonderful world of the Internet, I created muffins with cranberries, orange juice and orange rind. I thought this might be a winner because my favorite conserve also combines these two flavors. Also, a fresh cranberry relish that my mom always made used whole oranges and apples ground up with cranberries.

Oranges and cranberries are great friends together. I actually started cutting cranberries in half for another recipe, but decided I didn't want to spend my whole evening cutting small round berries in half, so I decided to make the muffins instead that only needed a cup of fresh cranberries.

Whatever cranberries I don't use for the conserve, I may freeze for later use or I might try drying some this year. Fortunately, they keep pretty well for my delayed solutions.

I got my wish for a few more weeks of warmer weather, but now it looks like that gig is over. We are gradually moving herb plants indoors, carefully spraying leaves with insecticidal spray before moving them inside. I am hoping to avert the infestation of bugs and spider mites like we had last year.

It is difficult to pick and choose the herbs to preserve and those to admit their lives are nearing a seasonal end. Last weekend I harvested handfuls of basil and ground up my last big batch of pesto. Small containers of it are tucked away in the freezer to season winter stir-fries and to be used as a spread on wheat crackers or baguette slices.

We picked out a few basil plants to bring inside-Thai, summerlong and a couple big leafed sweet basil plants. All our rosemary plants will be sprayed and brought inside by the end of this week (before you read this) and put under florescent lights. One of my new treasured plants to bring indoors is a bay plant, for recipes calling for a "bay leaf." Folks have asked me if I dry herbs and I have admitted I don't. I prefer fresh herbs in dishes.

As shared in an earlier column, I have preserved a variety of herb combos in salts this year. My only problem with these mixtures is sometimes over-salting with them. They can be somewhat deceptive if one is looking at the sprinkling of herbs and not noticing how much salt is being added.

The colors were beautiful that weekend we were in northern Wisconsin for the cranberry fest. The weather warmed enough to fit in one last boat ride with my daughter, Amanda, and two other guests. Cory helped me with supper by grilling pork chops. It wasn't too cold to slip out onto the deck and grill, although we'd had a gentle rain throughout the day. I had asked Cory to use some of my cranberry ketchup as a sort of barbecue sauce on the chops.

The following weekend, when I was home busy with plants, Dale went back up with his son, Brock. They found peak fall colors and although their intent was getting the boat out, they ended up spending two days fishing until they had to spend the last day pulling out the boatlift and dock.

Soon, Dale and I will spend a week up there for vacation. We have been taking a fall vacation for several years-except last year when I went on vacation with my kids at Glacier National Park.

I still treasure the memory of that vacation. It was a good time filled with many special memories and times together. Glacier is so very beautiful.

This year, I am just feeling relief to have ended the farmers market season and tonight is the first Tuesday that I have been able to call the evening my own for months. Although I loved working the market, as fall approaches, I treasure warm evenings at home.

Our last two markets had wonderful weather-it is not so wonderful tonight. But as I learned on the radio tonight, soaking fall rains, like the one tonight, are important for recharging soil moisture and subsoil moisture.

One thing about going up to a cabin on weekends, we end up going the same places over and over again. But I know there are many other options a bit farther up the road for us to explore. And I will enjoy spending time in my kitchen there canning pepper jelly, beet pickles and begin cooking frozen bags of tomatoes into a flavorful tomato juice cocktail. I equipped my kitchen up there with a smaller sized canner for pint jars and the other supplies I need for canning.

Instead of big muffins, tonight I used the recipe to create mini-muffins. I tried using an "Ultragrain" blend of an all-purpose blend of 55 percent whole wheat flour with 45 percent enriched refined flour (the gift of a co-worker).

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Recipe found on food.com

2 cups flour (try a blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour)

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup fresh cranberries (halved)

1 egg

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then mix in the fresh cranberries. Beat egg, orange juice, oil and orange rind. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Stir just enough to moisten all the dry ingredients.

Spoon into greased muffin cups, filling three-quarters full. Sprinkle the tops with a little coarse sugar. Bake at 400 degrees: 15 to 20 minutes for regular sized muffins, 12 to 15 minutes for mini-muffins till they are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.