“Why are you writing about cranberries now and not at Thanksgiving?” my teenager asked.

“Great question,” I said. “Now is the time those beautiful berries are being harvested from the bogs, and just think about the craisins we sprinkled over our salads at lunch last week — and the cranberry meatballs I like to make for football Sundays.”

“Oh, yeah,” was her teenager response.

It’s easy to associate cranberries with the holiday season — and they should be because they belong on our special holiday family tables in the winter months, but they are also a great addition to everyday meals.

For a healthy snack, try maple almond cranberry granola. Toss 2½ cups of old fashioned oats, 1 cup of whole almonds, 2/3 cup dried cranberries, ½ teaspoon (or more) cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add ½ cup of maple syrup, 1 /4 cup melted coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and stir well to combine.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 45 minutes at 300 degrees. Allow granola to cool completely. It will get a crunchy texture if allowed to sit in the open air for a time before storing.

Try this treat mixed in with yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream or just alone. You will love it! It will even store in an airtight contained for 3 weeks or in the freezer for 3 months.

Don’t forget to toss craisins in your favorite lettuce or spinach salads or in with your favorite chicken salad recipes. They are a special ingredient to cookies, breads and cakes, and, as mentioned, we love cranberry meatballs all year long.

While you are preparing to enjoy cranberries, think about this: 20 Wisconsin counties boast cranberry production making the state the leading cranberry producer in the nation. According to wiscran.org, the sand and peat marshes in central and northern Wisconsin create the perfect growing conditions for cranberries.

It is harvest season. Contrary to popular thought, cranberries do not grow in water. Cranberries grow on low running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. In Wisconsin, cranberry marshes are flooded with water to in harvesting. The berries float to the top of the water and are picked up by harvest machinery. Harvest season lasts from late September through October.

If you really want to celebrate the cranberry, check out the Warrens Cranberry Festival Friday through Sunday in Warrens, Wisconsin. It features three days of craft booths, a flea market, a wide selection of food — much of it featuring cranberries, and a large parade. For more information, go to cranfest.com.

Thomas can be reached at janellethomas@charter.net.

Cranberry Orange Cobbler

Filling

12 C fresh cranberries rinsed (3 12-oz bags)

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C brown sugar, packed

Zest from 2 oranges

Juice from 2 oranges, plus 1/4 C pulp if desired

2 tsp corn starch

Topping

1½ C all-purpose flour

⅓ C brown sugar

⅓ C sugar

1½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

⅓ C boiling water

Additional topping, optional

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray baking dish with a nonstick spray. Set aside.

For the filling, rinse cranberries and place in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice and corn starch over cranberries and stir gently. Let sit for 10 minutes while preparing the flour mixture, stir. Pour cranberries into an oval 3 quart or a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

For the topping, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and salt together. Using a pastry blender, mix butter into flour mixture until mixture becomes crumbly. Pour boiling water into flour mixture and stir until combined. Spoon mixture over cranberries and spread gently making sure to cover the cranberries.

To make additional topping (optional), mix cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl and sprinkle on top of the cobbler. Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes or until topping is cooked thoroughly and has started to brown. Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes. Serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream. Recipe and photo courtesy of greatgrubdelicioustreats.com.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Chicken

2 or 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (could use legs or thighs or a whole chicken)

1 regular sized can whole cranberry sauce

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

1/2 C water

2 Tbsp quick cooking tapioca, optional

2 Tbsp brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients. Pour over chicken in slow cooker and cook for 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Spoon sauce over chicken before serving. Recipe courtesy of thesouthernladycooks.com.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

1C (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 C white sugar

1 C brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 C flour, spooned and leveled

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 C old fashioned oats

1 1/4 C toasted pecans, roughly chopped

1/2 C coconut flakes

1 1/2 C white chocolate chips

1 1/4 C dried cranberries

More white chocolate chips, to top cookies (optional)

More dried cranberries (soaked), to top cookies (optional)

To toast pecans, chop them up and place them in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes, until fragrant. Don't let them burn. Remove from heat and let cool while you make the dough.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add both sugars and beat well, scraping sides and bottom. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Add the flour but don't mix it in. Add the salt, baking powder, and baking soda to the flour and use a small spoon to blend it with the flour a bit. Then mix in the flour, but stop before it's fully incorporated. There should still be white streaks.

Add the oats, pecans, coconut flakes, 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, and 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries to the bowl. Mix in gently, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom. Don't over mix. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour, or up to 24 hours. Makes about 32 cookies.

(If you want extra pretty cookies that have bright red cranberries on top, microwave a small bowl of water until it is very hot, then add about a cup of dried cranberries. Let sit on the counter while your dough chills, at least an hour. This rehydrates the cranberries, making them plump and colorful.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a large cookie scoop to shape the cookie dough. They should be about the size of a golf ball, or 2 inches across. Leave at least a couple inches in between each ball of dough.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are golden on the edges and they are not too shiny in the middle. (A little shine is okay.) Drain the cranberries that are soaking.

Immediately after removing from the oven, press white chocolate chips and the plump red cranberries into the top of each cookie. Let them set up on the pan for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely

Notes — If you are in a hurry shape the dough onto pans as described above and toss in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then bake as directed. Or you could put the shaped dough into Ziploc bags, freeze, and have cookies ready to be baked at a moment’s notice! Just add a few minutes to the bake time. Recipe and photo courtesy of thefoodcharlatan.com.

Cranberry Bliss Coffee Cake

2 eggs

1 C sugar granulated

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 C all-purpose flour

¼ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ to 1 tsp ground ginger

½ C melted butter

½ C buttermilk or sour cream

¾ C white chocolate chips

3/4 C dried cranberries soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, then well drained and towel dried

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz cream cheese softened at room temperature

½ C powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp orange extract or zest of ½ orange

Topping:

2 Tbsp white chocolate chips melted

⅔ C dried cranberries soaked in warm water for 20 minutes, then well drained and towel dried

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan (or a 10-inch round) with nonstick spray or butter and flour it to prevent the cake from sticking.

To a large bowl add 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla and whisk until combined. Add 1 cup flour, ¼ tsp baking soda, ½ tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ground ginger and whisk just until incorporated. Next add melted butter and buttermilk, whisking after each. Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

To make the cream cheese frosting, whisk together cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and orange emulsion or zest of ½ lemon until smooth.

Melt 2 tablespoon of white chocolate in a microwave for about 30 seconds in 7-second intervals, stirring in between until no lumps until smooth and melted. Transfer to a Ziploc bag and snip off the corner.

Spread the cream cheese frosting with a spatula all over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the ⅔ cup of dried cranberries on top. In a zigzag motion drizzle the melted white chocolate. Allow the chocolate to set for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, then cut and serve. Makes 9 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of letthebakingbegin.com.

Bacon Cranberry Walnut Dip

4 oz cream cheese

1 C mayo

1 C yellow onion, diced

1 C dried sweetened cranberries

1 C chopped walnuts

1 C Swiss cheese, shredded

1 C real bacon bits

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Place cream cheese and mayo in a large mixing bowl. Cream together with an electric mixer on high speed.

Add the diced onion, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts, shredded cheese, bacon bits, salt and pepper to the bowl. Stir well until all of the ingredients are fully combined.

Serve immediately or, for the best flavor, refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. Makes about 8 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of thisisnotdietfood.com.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Butter

2 12-oz bags fresh cranberries

2 C sugar

2 whole cinnamon sticks

1 C water or apple juice

Wash cranberries. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on high until cranberries are soft, about 2 to 3 hours.

Remove cinnamon sticks from cranberry mixture. Puree cranberry mixture with an immersion blender or food processor. If the cranberry mixture is too runny at this point, keep cooking it in the crock pot until it cooks down some more.

At this point you can either serve it as-is, or if you want to remove the little bits of cranberry skin still remaining in the puree, then you need to press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or a food mill.

Pour cranberry butter into mason jars or other serving containers and refrigerate until ready to serve. This recipe makes a little more than 2 cups of cranberry butter, depending on how long you cook down the cranberries.

Note — This recipe has not been tested for long term storage, so do not can it in a boiling water canner. It must be stored in the refrigerator. Recipe and photo courtesy of creativehomemaking.com.