Ellen’s fruit wonderland (and cranberry poppers update)

DSC_1319After last year’s holiday heart-transplant drama, it was nice to be back at Uncle Dan and Aunt Ellen’s house for the Decker Christmas — and even nicer, given an uneven recovery that took much longer than expected, to have the old Dan back.

Uncle Dan, acting much more like himself after his long recovery from a  heart transplant

Uncle Dan, acting much more like himself after his heart transplant

Yes, there was the usual epic dessert bar with all the Christmas goodies, including Dawn’s cranberry poppers, which I discovered require a recipe correction (at the bottom of this post, and I’ll correct the original as well).

But this year Ellen’s usual magazine-quality appetizer table was dominated by simple yet beautiful arrangements of fruit and veggie treats.

My favorite were the cracker-thin slices of cauliflower topped with yogurt and chopped carrot garnish and the grapefruit wedges sprinkled with pommegranate seeds. I also got my first taste of persimmon, which looks like tomato but tastes kind of like mango.

DSC_1308

Thanks to my holiday sugar detox experiments, I was able to hang out in the usual packed farmhouse kitchen without being rendered senseless in the presence of so many goodies. I did assemble my usual “infinite pie slice,” but after that I was content to nibble on the wonderland of fruit.

My infinite pie slice had tiny pieces of brownie, coconut torte, strawberry pretzel dessert, a molasses cookie and a small star cookie.

My infinite pie slice had tiny pieces of brownie, coconut torte, strawberry pretzel dessert, a molasses cookie and a small star cookie.

Crunchy Cranberry Poppers correction/update

Dawn with her cranberry poppers

Dawn with her cranberry poppers

Last week I reported that Dawn simply drains the sugar syrup off her cranberries and rolls them in sugar. But when I questioned her more closely at the Decker Christmas, she said she refrigerates them in the liquid overnight. She’s heard that helps take some of the bitterness out of the fruit.

It’s also important to cool the sugar syrup before you add the cranberries, otherwise their skin shrivels up, she noted.

Finally, Dawn said that rather than rolling them in sugar, she now seals the drained cranberries in a plastic bag with the sugar and shakes until well coated.

Ben with some of his cousins: From left, Madison, Max, Riley and Garrett.

Ben with some of his cousins: From left, Madison, Max, Riley and Garrett.

From left: me, Aunt Ellen, her son Jess and Uncle Russ.

From left: me, Aunt Ellen, her son Jess and Uncle Russ.

It's really amazing how many people we can pack into this room.

It’s really amazing how many people we can pack into this room.

My dad, my brother-in-law Gunnar, Traci, Dawn and my niece, Monroe.

My dad, my brother-in-law Gunnar, Traci, Dawn and my niece, Monroe.

My mom, right, with her sister Brenda and brother Dan.

My mom, right, with her sister Brenda and brother Dan.

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