Sparkling Cranberry Cheese Bites

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Can I interest you in an easy, tasty and festive holiday appetizer?  Thought so…

Cranberries are near and dear to my heart as they remind me of my home state—and particularly of Cape Cod where more cranberries are grown than anywhere else except for one other state.  I was very surprised to learn that Wisconsin grows more cranberries than even Massachusetts.  When did that happen?  Cape Cod and cranberries are synonymous to most people I know.

Anyhoo, these sparkling little gems make a wonderfully light appetizer to offer guests over the holidays.  With all the heavy, calorie-laden meals in the days ahead before we make our New Year’s resolutions, these cranberry bites are a great appetizer to have in your arsenal.  The tartness of the cranberries is offset by a coating of simple syrup and granulated sugar.  Despite the sugar, there is still the familiar cranberry zing.  Nestled on a crisp cracker with a smear of whipped cream cheese, it all adds up to a treat for your taste buds.

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One year ago:  Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Two years ago:  Sweet Potato Pie, Baby Cupcakes

Sparkling Cranberry Cheese Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cranberries, rinsed
  • Additional granulated sugar for rolling and coating cranberries
  • 2 pkgs. Carr’s water crackers (use a cracker such as Almond Nut Thins to keep appetizer gluten free)
  • About 8 oz. whipped cream cheese
  • About 1 1/4 cups sugared cranberries

Directions

Cover a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil and set a baking rack over it.

Heat the water and granulated sugar over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved to form a simple syrup.  Set aside and let cool briefly.

Add one cup of cranberries to the pan of simple syrup and gently stir to coat.

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Using a slotted spoon, remove the berries from pan and drain any excess syrup.  Place berries on the baking rack.  If some of the smaller berries fall through, don’t worry about it.  Let the berries sit to dry for about an hour.  They will be sticky so that the sugar will coat them well at that point.

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Fill a shallow dish with granulated sugar.  Then, working with a large spoonful at a time, gently roll the cranberries around until they are coated.

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Transfer them to a sheet of wax paper and repeat the procedure with the remaining cranberries.

Place crackers on a serving platter.  Top each cracker with a thin coating of whipped cream cheese and garnish with 3-4 sugared cranberries.  Serve.

Fran’s Notes

I switched from the brie used in the original recipe to whipped cream cheese because the cranberries kept rolling off the brie.  Tasty but not practical!  I could just picture all my guests chasing cranberries as they rolled onto the floor.  They stuck quite nicely to the whipped cream cheese to the point that I could pick up a cracker and hold it upside down without the berries falling off!

Depending on how many appetizer crackers you make up, you may have extra cranberries left over.  Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.  You can use the leftover cranberries in a variety of ways.  They would be a tasty and pretty garnish on pudding, cake, or a holiday trifle.  Of course, they’re a delicious little snack on their own.

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Source:   Adapted from an Annie’s Eats recipe

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