It’s December 27th and I’m still thinking about the neighborhood holiday party I went to last night. The amazing thing was that I didn’t realize just how many neighbors I had! Random acts of food turned into random acts of kindness as everyone brought something extraordinary to share. There was salmon wheels, venison sausage, all types of cheeses, crackers and fruit, croissant and ham sandwiches, tamales, ham and bean soup, parmesan twists, mushroom strudel, waldorf salad, luscious Petits Fours and cranberry shortbread bars. And of course lots of holiday spirit both in character and in liquid form.
I brought the cranberry shortbread bars.  Here’s the recipe:

Cranberry Shortbread Bars



12 Oz. Fresh Cranberries
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Oz. Water
Zest & Juice from 1/2 Orange (about 1 oz.)

Place above ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until reduced down to thick syrupy consistency. Take pan off of stove and put on a rack in a cool place while you are preparing the dough.



1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Cornstarch

1 Pinch Sea Salt

8 Oz. Unsalted butter

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

1/2 teas. Almond Extract


Preheat oven 375 F.

In a separate bowl sift the flour with the cornstarch. Add salt and whisk together.

In a kitchen aid (or by hand if you must), cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the almond extract. Gently add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Let rest covered in refrigerator for about 20 min.

Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of a 8 X 8 pan and bake for 15 min. or until the edges of the crust become a light brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes then spread the cranberry filling over the shortbread crust. Crumble the remaining dough on top of the filling. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 25 min. or until top is golden brown.

Let cool before serving.

If you’re in a jam and tight for time here are some things you can get from your local deli, supermarket or specialty store:

Crudités (raw vegetable tray) – Choose unique vegetables such as heirloom or baby veggies, asparagus spears or green beans. Blanch them quickly then dunk them in an ice bath. This will keep them bright in color and crisp. For a dip you can choose anything from garlic yogurt sauce, a spicy Thai dipping sauce to a basic vinaigrette.

Cheese and Crackers – Here’s an old standby that everyone is familiar with. Don’t be boring, get unique types of cheeses that range from pliable slices to soft and spreadable, mild in flavor to bold. Pair them with some nice artesian crackers.

Antipasto – we’re talking olives, cured meats, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, etc. Don’t skimp on quality. Go for out of the ordinary items and this classic tray will be a hit!

Enjoy the holidays!


Chef Trusan