Category Archives: Easy!

Colcannon: You had me at potatoes.

Somewhere in my patchwork ancestry there lives a little Irish. How much? I don’t really know. Probably a little slice. It’s enough to give me pale, tan-resistant skin, an affinity for the smell of rain, a tiny hint of red in my hair, and an undying love for potatoes. I don’t know very much about the cuisine of Ireland. I am sure it involves more than potatoes. Yes? Maybe one day I’ll visit and find out first-hand. In the meantime, I’ll stick with potatoes. One of the Irish dishes I’ve always enjoyed is colcannon. It’s easy to make, comforting and delicious, as potatoes almost always are.

This version has more greens than your garden-variety colcannon, which added some great texture and flavor (and a few more vitamins!). The thing about greens is they cook down so much you can eat a lot of them and not really notice, especially in a wonderful conglomeration like this. This is the third recipe I’ve made out of my new cookbook, The Book of Greens, and it’s my favorite one yet. Lest you think this book is all about healthy rabbit food and vegetarian recipes, feast your eyes on the yummy shot of my skillet full of butter, bacon and sopressata. Oh yeah, baby. Life is all about balance.

Colcannon
(from The Book of Greens, by Jenn Louis)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
4 oz. sopressata or bacon, coarsely chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (I used a little of both)
8 oz. green or Savoy cabbage (I used 1/2 small head of green cabbage)
8 oz. Russian kale without stems, cut into 1/4 inch ribbons (I used one big bunch. You could also use other varieties of kale or chard)
1 cup milk
A few gratings of nutmeg
Salt & pepper
1 3/4 pounds russet potatoes (how much is this? I used 5 medium-ish potatoes. When in doubt, I always throw in another one, but that’s just me)

Preheat the broiler.

In a large skillet or sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and sopressata and/or bacon and stir to combine.

Adding this mixture to just about anything is pretty much guaranteed to make it delicious.

Add the cabbage and kale and cook until both are tender, 6-8 minutes. Add the milk and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the greens are soft but not browned, about 15 minutes.

While the greens are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut into cubes. Put the potatoes in a saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the kale and cabbage mixture and gently mix on low speed until the potatoes are mashed and evenly mixed with the greens (you could also use an old-fashioned potato masher for this instead of a mixer if you are so inclined). Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the mixture in a baking dish and place under the broiler until lightly browned on top, about 5 minutes. Remove from broiler and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a side dish. Double recipe if eating as a main dish. <<< My plan for next time.

Colcannon and pork loin. Truthfully, I could lose the pig and double the colcannon. So good.

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Green Shakshuka

The monkeys and I have spent the winter mostly hibernating, eating comfort food and getting fat. But Spring is finally here! That means farmer’s market is revving up to full swing and new things are popping up every week that make me want to experiment in the kitchen.

In one of those perfect timing situations, the lovely Jenn Louis, a chef here in Portland, is releasing her new cookbook this month (in stores April 11th, woohoo!), aptly titled The Book of Greens! I was lucky enough to be eating at her restaurant, Ray, on the day the author copies landed  and bought the very first copy. Booyah!

The cool thing about this book is it gives you plenty of recipes for the “normal” greens you might be used to eating but also for lots of things that maybe you haven’t heard of or have never tried or didn’t know you could eat. I always get a few mystery items in my CSA boxes and this is going to be a huge help when figuring out what to do with them. This cookbook highlight greens I didn’t know existed and it goes way beyond salads.

This is the second recipe I’ve made out of this book and both have been delicious. I love my eggs and who knew there was a way of making them that I’ve never tried? Normally shakshuka is made with a red, tomato-based sauce but I’ve never seen a green version. Think salsa verde on steroids, with the eggs gently cooked right in the sauce. I love the zing of the tomatillos, balanced with a little spice and a lot of greens. You can eat this with challah toast, or do as I did, and serve it over rice for dinner. I also ate the leftovers over hash browns (don’t judge, you know how I feel about potatoes). This was so tasty.

Green Shakshuka!

Green Shakshuka
(a.k.a. Malabar Spinach Shakshuka, from The Book of Greens, by Jenn Louis)

1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and halved
4 oz. malabar spinach (I used regular spinach, or you could also sub chard)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnish
1 jalapeno, stemmed & cut into thirds (remove seeds and membranes if you want it less spicy)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion (I used half since I have an onion hater in the house)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground caraway
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
Sea salt
4 eggs
2 oz. sheep’s milk feta

Challah toast, rice or potatoes for serving

Combine tomatillos, spinach, cilantro, and jalapeno in a food processor. Pulse until all of the ingredients are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again until the ingredients are well mixed but not fully pureed. The texture of the ingredients should be fine, not chunky. Set aside.

Green things getting ready to get chopped up. Don’t worry, I squished them all down in there.

Over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil in a 10 inch skillet. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway, and turmeric and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. If the garlic begins to brown, decrease the heat.

Add the tomatillo mixture, season lightly with salt, and bring the sauce to a light simmer. Cook slowly until the sauce thickens, 8-10 minutes. Crack the eggs atop the spinach-tomatillo mixture, turn the heat to low, and cover the pan to allow the eggs to cook gently and steam. Cook the eggs until the whites all set, 4-5 minutes.

Spoon into individual bowls with the eggs on top, and garlic with the cilantro springs and feta. Serve immediately with challah toast, rice or potatoes (or for a low carb option, just eat it with a spoon)!

Serves 2.

 

 

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Homemade Pizza with “Sun-dried” Tomatoes

One of the best things about overflowing summer produce is the yummy surprises I find in my freezer in the fall. A couple of months ago I had tomatoes coming out my ears and decided to make some mock sun-dried tomatoes in the oven. They were so easy to do, and so delicious. Best of all, they take up a fraction of the space of whole or canned tomatoes, since you can stack them all in a freezer bag and stash them away for later.

Now, you’re probably saying, “fat lot of good this does me in the middle of fall with no garden tomatoes to be found!” Well, on one hand you are right. But on the other hand, this is a great trick to make store-bought tomatoes taste better in the fall and winter. By doing this slow bake, you get rid of the watery, mealy texture of winter tomatoes and bring out all the natural sweetness instead. For extra sweet ones, use the little grape tomatoes! Then use in your favorite pasta, omelet, salad, pizza or whatever!

As with any pizza, feel free to build your own with the ingredients and flavors you like. For this particular pie, instead of sauce I used a simple olive oil and garlic mixture, covered with sun-dried tomatoes. Then top with a scatter of your favorite toppings, some melty mozzarella, and you have a pizza to die for. For a more crispy crust, I recommend using a pizza stone, but if you don’t have one, a parchment lined cookie sheet will do the trick just fine.

Homemade pizza with "sun-dried" tomatoes

Homemade pizza with “sun-dried” tomatoes

Homemade Pizza with “Sun-dried” Tomatoes

1 ball of fresh pizza dough (you can make your own or use a pre-made dough, such as Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. cornmeal
1 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. dried Italian herbs
1/2 – 3/4 cup sliced “sun-dried” tomatoes (see recipe below or use store-bought sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil)
6-7 olives, chopped up, any kind
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 small shallot, sliced thinly and rings separated
1 ball (8 oz.) fresh mozzarella

Remove your ball of dough from the bag, coat in a bit of olive oil and place in a bowl with a towel over it. Let it come to room temperature and rise a bit (usually about an hour is fine). Preheat oven to 450˚ with pizza stone or pan in the oven. While the oven is preheating, prep all your toppings so you can assemble your pizza quickly.

When oven is preheated, remove the stone. Sprinkle stone with cornmeal and press out your dough into whatever shape you want your pizza to be. Since my stone is round I usually go for some sort of roundish, oblong sort of shape. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter garlic and half the herbs over the dough. Rub all around so it’s got a thin coating all over.

Layer on your toppings. I started with tomatoes to mimic “sauce”, then layered spinach, olives, shallots and then cheese on top. Sprinkle with the other half of the herbs.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, or until crust is crunchy on the bottom and cheese is melted and starting to brown just a bit on top. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve.

"Sun-dried" tomatoes - no sun needed!

“Sun-dried” tomatoes – no sun needed!

“Sun-dried” tomatoes – no sun needed!

Roma tomatoes
Olive oil
Sea salt (plain, or infused)
Fresh cracked pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 250˚. Line baking sheets with parchment. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise. Lay out on sheets, sliced side up. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

All ready to pop in the oven.

All ready to pop in the oven.

Bake 3-4 hours or until slightly flattened and sun-dried looking. Let cool. Store in freezer bags, and pull out as needed.

Use tomatoes in your favorite dinner.

What are you going to put your sun-dried tomatoes on?

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Maple Squashiness

For someone who has always hated squash, the weirdest thing has happened to me. The last year or two a strange evolution has occurred and all the sudden, I’m a huge fall and winter squash fan. And it’s all because of this simple recipe. While there are lots of ways to cook it, this is what I find myself doing time after time. These sticky, sweet, buttery, yummy wedges just keep me coming back for more.

Sometimes I add a few dried cranberries or nuts, or a crumble of goat cheese, but more often than not, it’s just this. Real maple syrup. Real butter. Sea salt. Cracked pepper. You can’t go wrong.

One note: wrestling these things into submission is sometimes a bit of a chore, depending on the particular squash you are using. This recipe will work on pretty much any hard-shelled winter squash, from acorn to butternut. I personally love having the extra caramelization on all the edges, so I go through the trouble of cutting it into wedges. But if you don’t want to mess with it, or if it’s just too hard to cut up, cut that sucker in half, scoop out the seeds and just put the ingredients in the cavity of each half. Cut it into wedges after you cook it. You may need to cook it a bit longer since it’s a larger chunk, but it will still turn out lovely.

Maple Squashiness. Simple. Delicious.

Maple Squashiness. Simple. Delicious.

Maple Squash

1 acorn squash (or any type of hard-shelled winter squash)
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. real maple syrup
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Optional – dried cranberries or cherries, chopped almonds or walnuts, goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400˚.

Cut squash in half. Remove seeds (you can discard these or clean them and bake them for a snack). If you want to, cut further into smaller wedges. Scatter little pieces of butter all over, drizzle with maple syrup, sprinkle with sea salt & pepper.

All ready to go in the oven.

All ready to go in the oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (adjust cooking time for bigger or smaller squash) or until fork tender. If using nuts/dried fruit/cheese, sprinkle on squash 5-10 minutes before you take it out. Serve hot.

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Italian Style Marinated Veggie Salad

Sometimes I go crazy at farmer’s market and the veggies start to take over. I went a little nuts this week and I have a ton to use up, but I ate a big green salad last night so tonight, although I wanted some sort of salad, I decided to go a different direction. This salad is all about the veggies, with a little pasta and cheese thrown in for richness and texture. I tossed it all with some fresh greens at the end but in this one, the marinated vegetables are the star. This is a great way to use up lots of vegetables that are threatening to expire.

For maximum flavor, make the vegetables at least an hour in advance (or even the day before) so they can really soak up the marinade before tossing with the other ingredients. I usually make a huge batch of the vegetables so I can have some for the next day. The vegetables will keep for several days, and will improve in flavor the longer they marinate. Toss with the greens and pasta right before serving. Not in the mood for lettuce? It’s just as good without it (and travels better if you are making it for a potluck or picnic).

This is the perfect sunny day meal. What do you cook when it’s too hot to cook?

Marinated veggies. Mmm.

Marinated veggies. Tortellini. Mmm.

Italian Style Marinated Veggie Salad

1 zucchini or globe squash, cut into thin slices
2 cups green beans, cut into bite size pieces
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup black olives
2 tbsp. basil pesto (buy your favorite prepared or make your own)
2-3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed into a paste
A pinch of crushed red pepper
Salad greens
Parmesan cheese (shaved or shredded)
1 package tortellini

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cauliflower. Cook 3 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Set aside.

In a large bowl whisk together pesto, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Add green beans, cauliflower, zucchini, tomatoes, and olives. Toss to coat veggies in the marinade and let it sit at room temperature for at least an hour if possible.

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Toss salad greens with marinated vegetables, parmesan cheese and tortellini until all ingredients are combined and coated with dressing. Finish with a bit of sea salt and cracked pepper if desired. Serves 4.

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Berry Beety Salad

Nothing says summer to me as much as blackberries.When I was a kid I would stuff my face with as much as I could find, and wore the scratches and stains with pride. Here in Oregon, it seems they are always growing everywhere, along sides of roads, in fields, in random bunches here and there, in most people’s yards. We are going to have a bumper crop in our backyard this year. I don’t know anyone who actually planted their blackberries, but everyone seems to have some. Although whatever variety of berries in my yard isn’t quite ripe yet (we counted 5 black ones today, but the rest are still green or red), farmer’s market was bursting with them. I picked up some Marion berries (a local variety of blackberry) that tasted just like sunshine.

In my farm box this week there were greens, greens and more greens. I still have some lettuce from last week too, so I’ve committed to eating some sort of lettuce based meal every day this week in hopes of using it all up. Last night I roasted beets (also in my box this week, yay!), made a simple but lovely blackberry vinaigrette and ended up with this beautiful and delicious salad. When salads taste like this it is far from a hardship to eat them every day.

Beets, berries, goat cheese, oh my!

Beets, berries, goat cheese, oh my!

Berry Beety Salad

2-3 cups leaf lettuce
1/2 cup blackberries plus a few for dressing
3-4 beets
1-2 oz. goat cheese
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
Salt & pepper

Heat oven to 400˚. Place beets on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes until a fork goes in easily when you stab them. Let cool. Peel if desired and cut into bite size pieces.

In a small bowl crush a few blackberries with a fork. Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon and salt & pepper. Whisk together to make dressing.

Pile lettuce on a plate. Top with beets and blackberries. Drizzle with dressing and top with goat cheese. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper. Serves 1-2. I ate all this myself, so multiply recipe accordingly.

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Cheesy Asparagus Tart

It’s summer! Well, maybe not technically for another week or so, but farmer’s market is booming and my CSA boxes started coming this week! Getting a box of fresh veggies from one of my favorite farms every week was one of the highlights of my summer last year and I could not wait to sign up again this year.

My first farm box was green, green, green. Lettuce, chard, kale, asparagus, spearmint, tarragon, spring onions, radishes and dried beans to round it out. There will be lots of salads this week. But first, this lovely tart I found in my Forest Feast cookbook. As far as using up fresh veg this summer, I have a feeling this book will be my constant companion. Beautifully illustrated and easy, easy recipes that really highlight the veggies. Asparagus season is almost over so this one was at the top of my list. It didn’t disappoint.

As usual, I played fast and loose with some of the ingredients based on what I had on hand. Feel free to do the same.

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart

Asparagus Tart
(from The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson)

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (takes 30-40 minutes to thaw at room temp)
15-20 spears of asparagus
Goat cheese (or other soft cheese of your choice, she used Brie in the original recipe)
1 egg, beaten
Dried Italian seasoning or herbs of your choice
Salt & pepper
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 tbsp. parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚. Unfold the puff pastry and place on a cookie sheet (greased or lined with parchment). Spread cheese over the puff pastry. Drizzle the beaten egg over the cheese. Place asparagus spears in a row. Sprinkle with other ingredients. Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before slicing.

We served this with a salad and fruit for dinner (also perfect for lunch or brunch!). Using one sheet of puff pastry serves 3-4 people. Easily doubled for more, or can be cut into smaller pieces for appetizers.

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Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Last night after dinner, my boyfriend came home and the first thing he says to me is “what’s so sticky all over the counter?” Oops. My grapefruit got away from me. I’ll admit to getting getting a little wild while segmenting my grapefruit all fancy like you’d see on Chopped. After that,  the the salad looked so good I just forgot about all the flying drops and dove right in. And why wouldn’t I? This thing is a sweet and savory masterpiece.

Salad season is upon us, as evidenced by the wonderful spring lettuces now available at most farmer’s markets. I picked up a giant head of butter lettuce last week and some of it found its way into this salad. For variety (and because it was there) I also added some baby spinach. You can use whatever kind of greens you like or have lying around. If you are short on time or energy for taking apart messy grapefruit, you can buy segments in a jar in the produce section of most grocery stores. Look for one that doesn’t have added sugar.

I don’t remember which magazine I was reading when I found this dressing. It sounds so simple but the combo of grapefruit juice and sesame oil is just wonderful. All it needs is a little salt and pepper to give it a little punch. The goat cheese adds some creaminess and tang and oh my, it’s all so good. I know it sounds weird, but next time you have a pile of greens staring at you, give this one a go. So simple. So yummy.

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

Grapefruit Sesame Salad

3-4 cups mixed salad greens (I used half spinach and half butter lettuce)
1 pink grapefruit (or grapefruit segments in a jar if you prefer)
2 oz. goat cheese
1 cup chickpeas, rinsed
1 tsp. sesame oil
Salt & pepper

Place greens and chickpeas in a bowl.

Over a small bowl, segment grapefruit, reserving liquid. I do this by cutting the peel off and then using a knife to get the segments out. Squeeze the leftover membranes over the bowl to get the rest of the juice out. You’ll probably have at least 2-3 tablespoons. Add the grapefruit segments to the greens. Add sesame oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to the small bowl of grapefruit juice. Whisk to combine.

Toss the greens and chickpeas with the dressing. Top plates of salad with crumbled goat cheese. This makes enough for 2 people, or one super hungry salad machine.

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Polenta Stuffed Portobellos

In anticipation of the upcoming season, I signed up for the same CSA I used last year. For those of you who haven’t heard of CSA, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and basically means you sign up with a local farm and receive a share of whatever they happen to pull out of the ground every week during the growing season. My family and I loved doing this last year. Not only did we have enough food for $25/week that we had to work to eat it all, but we got to try a lot of new things that we may not have otherwise purchased, and everything was just about as fresh and delicious as it could possibly be without going out and picking it yourself. I am not a talented gardener, and I don’t have room to do it even if I was so this is the perfect way for us to have local, farm fresh veggies all through the summer and fall.

Shortly after signing up, I happened upon this gorgeous cookbook, The Forest Feast, by Erin Gleeson, and it was just bursting with simple and gorgeous vegetable dishes. I couldn’t resist. For those who know me, you know I have a tragic cookbook addiction and it had been a while since I had fed the beast. I needed it. Really, I did.

This is the first recipe I made out of my new little treasure. I made a few minor changes based on the contents of my fridge, but I have to say, these are deceptively simple. For a vegetarian dish I found it to be filling and complex, and the mushrooms add a nice “meaty” texture that was quite satisfying. Her photo shows a beautiful portobello with a dainty scoop of polenta and a sprinkle of veggies. Mine were less pretty since I just piled everything on there (who are we kidding, the creamy polenta is the best part!), but they were every bit as delicious. I’m guessing after she took that photo she piled some more stuff on hers too.

Don’t like mushrooms? I would make this same recipe with sweet bell peppers or a slab of grilled eggplant (and probably will!)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos (yeah, I went a little nuts with the polenta, so sue me)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos (yeah, I went a little nuts with the polenta, so sue me)

Polenta Stuffed Portobellos
(from The Forest Feast)

4 portbello mushrooms
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 pound brussels sprouts
1 red onion
Olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375˚. Put portobellos on a baking sheet. Remove stems and discard. Drizzle each with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until tender.

While portobellos are cooking, thinly slice brussels sprouts and red onion. Heat a skillet to medium, add a drizzle of olive oil and/or a tbsp. of butter and cook slowly to caramelize, about 15 minutes (turn down to medium low if veggies are browning too quickly, you want them nice and soft, not scorched).

Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt. Add polenta and stir. Turn heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat. Add 2 tbsp. butter and parmesan cheese. Stir well until everything is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste (I always wait until after I’ve added the cheese since it can sometimes be very salty on its own).

Assemble mushrooms. Start with the mushroom, add a big spoonful or two of polenta and top with vegetables. Finish with a sprinkle of cheese if desired.

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Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberries are everywhere during this time of year. I’m always so happy to see the first fresh ones popping up in the grocery stores and farmers markets right before Thanksgiving and so sad to see them going away shortly after Christmastime. So during that period I tend to perhaps overdo it a bit on the cranberries. Muffins, bread, salad, pork loin, you name it, it will probably get some cranberries thrown in there somewhere.

This recipe is so easy and doesn’t have any weird ingredients, or very many ingredients at all, in fact. I love it because the bars are just slightly sweet, more of a shortbread sort of taste, and then you get a burst of tangy cranberry in every bite, and it is just heavenly. I’ve made these at least four times so far this season and every time I make them I wish there were more. With so many overly sweet and rich desserts during the holidays these were a refreshing change. We even ate them for breakfast.

I don’t know about you, but a couple of bags of berries will be finding their way into my freezer so I can be enjoying these long after cranberry season is over.

Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberry Cake Bars

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold in cranberries.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into small squares.

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