Ruby Bars & Thanksgiving Inspiration

Cranberry Apple Butter Bars I call these bars Ruby Bars because if their color (obviously) and I will tell you that they are filled with a cranberry and apple butter sauce.  Intrigued?  I was too.  I am so excited to share this recipe with you, but before I do that, I have a quick little round-up of Thanksgiving ideas!  Just in case the influx of holiday magazines, Pinterest boards, recipe flip books at the grocery store registers, and family traditions have completely robbed you of inspiration!

Appetizers

Lemon & Herb Deviled Eggs Lemon & Herb Deviled Eggs- You won’t believe how lovely these are.  Just different enough to be interesting, but not weird enough to scare off your relatives.

Caramelized Onion DipCaramelized Onion Dip- There are certain places I am not allowed to show my face without this dip in my hands.  Its that good.  Make it the day before you need it to save yourself some time.

Hummus Instant Hummus- Guilt free snacking while you try to keep the kids fingers out of the jello salad.

IMG_0364White Sangria-Mmmm.  Light, fruity, and the perfect pre-drink to a turkey dinner.

Hot Apple CiderHot Apple Cider- Classic for a reason.

Main Menu

Pomegranate Glazed CarrotsPomegranate Glazed Carrots- So good, they should have been at the first Thanksgiving.

Mashed Sweet PotatoesMashed Sweet Potatoes- Because you need them in your life.

Baked Garlic Brown RiceBaked Garlic Brown Rice- A spectacular alternative to potatoes when you want to add a starch.

Classic Buttermilk BiscuitsClassic Buttermilk Biscuits- The name says it all.

Maple Orange Cranberry SauceMaple Orange Cranberry SauceMake this today.  It will last for a good week in the fridge!

Roast Broccoli Roast BroccoliA healthy side that adds gorgeous color to your plate with minimal effort.

Dessert

Plum CrunchPlum Crunch- Just say yes.

Cranberry Maple Pudding CakeCranberry Maple Pudding Cake- You and your guests will be talking about this until next summer.

Rum Pumpkin PieRum Pumpkin Pie- Its pumpkin pie with rum, people.  Need I say more?

The Best Carrot Cake EVER!The Best Carrot Cake EVER- Not a fan of pumpkin pie?  You won’t miss it with this on your plate!

And now onto our feature recipe!!
Cranberry Apple Butter BarsThis is such an amazing recipe, I don’t know why it took me so long to share it here.  If you are someone who loves to make seasonal recipes but the thought of making a pie-wether from scratch or not-nearly causes you to swoon, this dessert is for you.  In fact, when you bring it down to science, 98% of those who have eaten this in my presence actually prefer this to pie.  To PIE, people!!  Better than pie!

It follows your basic layer bar kind of format.  You make an oatmeal butter cookie type of dough, put some of it in the bottom of the pan, pour in a filling, and sprinkle the last of the dough on top, making a crunchy, bar sort of deal.  These go together just like the Oatmeal Caramel Bars that I can never stop eating.  So naturally, I was drawn to this recipe.  Add in the fact that it contains one of my favorite ingredients, i.e. apple butter, and I was pretty much helpless to resist.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the way the apple butter changes the flavor of the cranberries.  They lose the ‘in your face’ sourness and mellow out to just taste like good, tangy, cranberries.  It is quite lovely.  A small hint of the spices but not enough sweetness to be too rich.  Which is nice because there is plenty of that in the crust.  Butter + oats + sugar = chewy and crunchy heaven.  All together it is a stellar match.  So not only are they a beautiful ruby color, but they are a great at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on into the New Year.
Cranberry Apple Butter BarsTwo Years Ago: Sun Dried Tomato Dip
Three Years Ago: Corn Casserole

Ruby Bars
Adapted from Pillsbury
My test subjects spanned more than a dozen people over the course of several years and no matter what I did or suggested, they were split 50/50 on wether or not  they liked these bars with whipped cream.  Serve some on the side and let your guests be the judge!  I find that the store bought apple butter works best in this recipe because it tends to be a bit more spicy, but anything that you like would be great.

Filling:
1-12 oz-bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 c sugar
zest of 1 orange
1/4 c of OJ
1/2 c apple butter
2 T butter (optional)
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium sauce pan, combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and orange juice and heat over medium low heat.  Once the sugar starts to melt, turn the heat up to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit pops and it starts to thicken.  You can use the back of a spoon to help break up the fruit if you need to.  Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the apple butter, vanilla, and the butter, if using.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Crust:
3/4 c butter, softened
1 c brown sugar
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 c quick cooking oats

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  While the filling cools a bit, combine all crust ingredients with a mixer, hand mixer, or wooden spoon.  Press 2/3 of the mixture into a sprayed 9X13 pan.  Pour the filling over the crust and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining crust over the filling and pat slightly.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars or they will fall apart when you try to serve them.  Serve with or without whipped cream.