Let’s take cranberry sauce to the appetizer table, people.
I don’t know about your Thanksgiving spread, but in my family, the cranberry sauce was always the last to disappear. And it’s not as if Mom just opened a can and let the cylinder plop out. She made cranberry sauce from scratch with all these nuts in it (and I’m not crazy about nuts… maybe that’s why I never liked it…) and she served it with this white sour cream/cream cheese/sugar sauce. I swear, if the ratio of cranberry to sauce was 1:2, then I would lick my plate.
But I make a motion to move the cranberry sauce off the dinner table. I mean, it’s hard enough to decide whether you want to dip your turkey in gravy or dip it in mashed potatoes, why throw cranberry into the mix? [OK. If you must dip in cranberry too, make this recipe with half the cream cheese and reserve half the cranberry sauce for serving with turkey.]
Instead, let’s start with the cranberry. Everyone needs a little somethin’ somethin’ to snack on while they cook (or watch football, or nap). In my house, we try to starve until dinner is served at 4 pm, which always backfires and there are heads in the refrigerator and hands in the pantry, sneaking little snackies throughout the day. Let’s instead just plan the snack. Enter Cranberry Sauce Cream Cheese Dip with Candied Pecans.
This incredibly easy dip is all at once sweet, tart, citrusy, spicy, crunchy, and creamy. Prep time is only 10 minutes, which is a WIN on Thanksgiving Day when you’ve got a thousand other dishes to prepare. And it’s enough to serve a crowd, so keep the holiday guests coming. And make sure you print extra recipes for all your friends who are gonna ask how you made it.
Real life moment: I’m at Camino Bakery, which is my very favorite place. I want to own this place. I freaking love Camino. Anyway, the couple next to me is on a first date and I can’t stop smiling and I’m barely able to keep from laughing. First dates are so awwwwkward. This is so much fun.
Second real life moment: After the date, the girl stuck around and we struck up a conversation about how awkward online dating is. (I was nervous she was going to say something like, “I saw you typing about me…”) Enter other girl and guy from the next table over into the conversation. See another girl snickering two tables day. Make eye contact aaaand… we have another girl in the conversation. Aaaand my working night has just become social hour! But oh, the laughter and the horror stories (and the success stories too!). Spontaneous little connections and commiserations like these make my heart smile.
Cranberry Sauce Cream Cheese Dip with Candied Pecans
For the pecans:
- 1 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons water
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup pecan halves
For the dip
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries about 2.5 cups
- 2 serrano peppers seeded and finely chopped
- zest of 1 lime divided
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup water
- 16 ounces cream cheese I used Greek yogurt cream cheese, softened
For the pecans:
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, water, vanilla, and paprika and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, toast pecans about 3 minutes or until they give off a nutty aroma. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Pour the sugar mixture over the pecans, stirring constantly for about 15 seconds, until the pecans are thoroughly coated. Immediately remove from the heat and spread on wax paper to cool. Once cooled, you can break the nuts apart, if needed. The pecans will be slightly sticky at first, but the coating hardens further within a few hours. You may use immediately or prepare in advance.
For the dip:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high eat, combine all the ingredients for the dip except for 1/2 the lime zest and the cream cheese. Bring to a boil then simmer about 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring often.
To assemble, spread the cream cheese evenly on a serving dish, top with warm cranberry sauce. Chop the pecans and sprinkle over the dip and garnish with the remaining lime zest. Serve with crackers.