Monday, January 3, 2011

Holiday Crisp for the Birds

On a whim I decided to make a crisp for a holiday dessert. I hadn't planned to bring dessert, and I really didn't need to add more sweets to my diet, but I wanted to use up the remaining apples and cranberries I had before they went bad.

The extra apples and whole cranberries left over
from my applesauce making

My husband and I had holiday dinner plans with his family on Christmas Eve and then at my family's on Christmas Day. I woke up early on the 24th to start my food preparations for those meals. My signature offering is applesauce. Sometimes, to achieve a pinker sauce, I add a few cranberries, too. When I had finished making all the applesauce needed for both holiday feasts, I still had a little of each fruit left over, and I had some strawberries from summertime frozen in the freezer. With all the extra fruit on hand, I decided to make a crisp to bring for dessert.

Frozen strawberries from the freezer — these were bought
at the farmers' market early in the summer.

Crisps are easy, and they are pretty healthy as desserts go. I only used a little bit of sugar, and I sweetened the rest with local honey and maple syrup. Per my norm I followed a basic recipe for a cranberry-apple crisp from the Dishing Up Vermont cookbook but made my own alterations — such as adding strawberries and using honey as a sweetener — as I went.

Once I had the crisp assembled (but not yet baked), I double-wrapped it in plastic wrap and set it on the side table of the grill outside on the deck because of lack of space in the refrigerator. I went back inside and continued on with the rest of my holiday food preparations.

About an hour later I returned to the deck to set out the crab stuffing for the shrimp that also would not fit in the fridge, and this is what I found:

It appeared that an unknown bird pecked a hole in the plastic wrap and helped her- or himself to some berries!

I did not see the culprit, but the small hole and the relative "neatness" of the thievery leads me to believe it was a bird and not a squirrel. Also, there were no footprints in the snow surrounding the baking dish. I noticed too that only cranberries and strawberries were extracted. I found a few pinkish-red stains in the snow close by and two cranberries on the deck floor, which were later eaten — again when I was not present.

A friend said it was probably a jay. I have seen blue jays about my yard year-round, so that is definitely a possibility. I wonder if there are any other guesses as to which birds are around in these cold months that have a taste for cranberries and an excellent sense of smell.

Oh, and if you were curious, we did still eat the crisp. I scooped out the tainted area, then baked the crisp at 350° for 30 minutes. It was delicious. No wonder the bird(s) had to try some!

— Kristy L. Rustay, Marketing Manager

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