Today was Part 1 of Thanksgiving cooking and I’m done – whew! The cranberry muffins are made per my son’s request. The cranberry sauce is made, per hubby’s request. I’ve also finished the cherry cheesecake (for those who don’t want pumpkin pie) and the twice baked potatoes have been baked once, mixed and stuffed and are ready to bake the second time tomorrow.

This year I am making all really simple foods. They are comforting for all and easy to make. I think for the group of family and friends that are coming this is the best menu for them. Next week I can go back to things more my own style and being a bit more creative. Below are some of the recipes. If you are looking for the cheesecake though sorry, it was a store bought crust, box mix, and can of cherry pie filling for the top.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
This is so simple to make and I actually like the taste of this. The canned stuff I never have liked. I promise anyone can make this.

1 1/2 bags of fresh cranberries
1 cup orange juice
zest from an orange
2 cinnamon sticks
1 to 1 1/2 cups brown sugar (to your taste)

Place cranberries, orange juice, zest, cinnamon, and brown sugar into pan and stir. Add enough water to just cover everything. Turn on high and heat until boiling. As soon as it starts to boil turn it down to low. Be careful because you will have the cranberries bursting, best to do this on the back burner. Keep the pan simmering on low for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. After the first hour you can give it a taste to see if it sweet enough for your taste. You can let it stay on the heat longer if you like, it will just continue to reduce a bit more. Once you are happy with it, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl and let cool. It will set up and get much thicker when you do this. After it cools, cover and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use. Stir gently with a spoon before serving.

Cranberry Muffins
We used to always eat out for Thanksgiving at the same place. Each year the restaurant had cranberry muffins and that was my son’s favorite. Knowing I was cooking this year his big request was cranberry muffins with no orange. This is what I came up with, very simple and makes a ton. Muffins freeze easily so I always make extra to throw in the freezer.

My son got a muffin with some large pieces of cranberry. He got a kick out of them and said he looked like they had been shot and took a pic to share.
Cranberry Muffin
Baking spray
1/2 bag fresh whole cranberries (about 2 cups)
4 cups Bisquick
1 cup white sugar
2 cups milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375. Liberally spray muffin tins with baking spray. Chop cranberries in food processor. In 2 different batches preferable so you can have one batch very coarse and another batch a finer chop. This gives nice texture to the muffins. In a large bowl combine the Bisquick, sugar, milk, and eggs. Stir well to combine everything. Now fold in your chopped cranberries. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake. For mini muffins it takes 12-14 minutes, regular size muffins about 18-20 minutes. Just keep an eye on them the last minute few minutes so they don’t burn.

Twice Baked Potatoes
These are not complicated, but just a little time consuming with the different steps. You can easily add or remove any ingredients you like.

6 baking potatoes
canola oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tsp kosher salt, divided in half
2 cups shredded cheddar, divided (1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1/2 stick of butter, softened
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated (you can use garlic powder if you need to)
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350° F. Scrub potatoes well and pat dry. Poke each potato with a fork about 6 to 8 times. Rub each potato with canola oil lightly then use 1 tsp of the kosher salt to rub into all the potatoes. Place on center rack in the oven and place a cookie sheet or piece of foil on rack below (to catch any drips). Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. This will depend on the size of your potatoes and how how your oven runs. They are done when they give a bit when you squish them on either side. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can easily pick up and handle them.

Once they are cool, slice each potato in half lengthwise. Now use a spoon to gently scoop out the insides of each half. You need to leave about 1/8″ to 1/4″ of the potato on the skin though to give it stability. You are only going to stuff 10 skins so you have 2 halves that are spares. I do all 12 the same and then just discard the 2 worst shells. Place all your potato insides into a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients except for 1/2 cup shredded cheddar. Mix and smash the ingredients together. You don’t need it to be smooth, just a nice mush of all the ingredients and combined well. Now use a spoon to stuff each shell with the potato mixture – you want them to be heaping. Top the 10 stuffed potatoes with the remaining cheese.

You can do up to this part ahead. If so, cover with plastic wrap lightly on a baking sheet and place in the fridge. When you are ready, bake in a 350° F oven for 30 minutes (if baked right away) or 40 minutes if they were in the fridge.