cranberry crumble bars

(Mostly written on Monday…)

This morning we sent away The Child Who Can Not Part With Anything and then the rest of us worked together to pack up, throw away, and clean out.

Also, we caught the Large Animal that was living in the ceiling, except it was a couple of itty-bitty mice, so I’m not sure we actually solved anything.

Two Dead Mice

My husband set two mousetraps up in the ceiling via the light fixture hole. I was sitting in the kitchen when I heard the victory snap-squeak.

Nervous about blind groping, my husband used a combination of flashlight, mirror, and camera with flash to locate the trap. And then, very carefully, he reached up in the hole with his gloved hand, touched the trap, and—


My husband was bouncing around, hands flapping, squealing and shrieking. I doubled over, laughing. The kids gathered to stare.

My older son rolled his eyes at his papa’s shenanigans, put a glove on, reached into the hole, and pulled the trap out. Done.

Later, there was another SNAP and then a thump-thump-thump. The flashlight and mirror revealed a mouse that was most certainly dead. But when my husband touched the trap, the whole trap-and-mouse outfit jumped. From there, the story proceeds exactly as the first with lots of manly squeals and a fearless son to the rescue. 

The End

The kids are in rest time and I’m sitting on the sofa with my feet propped up…except the kids aren’t actually in rest time because my husband decided to keep working upstairs and so now it sounds like a war zone up there. He and the kids are dismantling a loft bed (took up too much room), stripping the beds of linens (“the kids can just sleeping in sleeping bags,” my husband announced as he kicked a pile of blankets down the stairs), and sorting, packing, and trashing. The Child Who Can Not Part With Anything is weeping and wailing (of course), and everyone is bossing everyone else around. Major jolly fun, it sounds like.

But that’s not what I sat down to write about. I sat down to write about cranberry bars.

It’s not like anyone needs anything else sweet, but this has nothing to do with need and everything to do with Making A Note Of Something Important So I’ll Remember It Next Year. Though, come to think of it, last year I made those fabulous fig-anise pinwheels that I said I’d make forever more and then I didn’t make them this year. Not because I didn’t like them—because I do—but because I’m always attracted to The New And Exciting, silly me.

on the Christmas breakfast platter

Maybe I’ll never make these cranberry bars again. Or maybe I’ll make them all year round (but not when I’m in Guatemala because I don’t think they have cranberries there). Or maybe you’ll make them and, not being the type to be sucked into culinary fads and hype, you’ll make them till you’re 96 years old and all your teeth have fallen out. In other words, I can’t predict the cookie future. I can only say, “World, I liked these and maybe you will, too.”

There’s nothing fancy about these bars. Just some chopped cranberries between two layers of gently spiced butter dough—half of the dough makes a firm base and the other half makes a nubbly cap. The bars are mostly soft with a bit of crunch, and not too sweet (so you can eat them for breakfast after you finish your oatmeal).

Cranberry Crumble Bars
Adapted from Lisa of Homesick Texan who, in turn, got the recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

Update, December 2015: I made these again, and, while delicious, I think they need more filling. Next time, perhaps double it…?

Update, January 1, 2016: I doubled the filling. My verdict: doubled filling is a little too much. So maybe just increase the amount by a half? (This is getting complicated. Sorry.)

Update, January 2, 2019: I made these with just an extra half recipe of filling. Perfect.

for the dough:
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon each, ground cloves and allspice
2 sticks butter, in chunks
1 egg, beaten

Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and process until the mixture is like sand. Add the beaten egg and pulse to combine. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly.

for the filling:
1 12-ounce bag (3 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon orange zest
1½ tablespoons orange juice

Put all ingredients in the (still dirty) food processor and pulse until the berries are finely chopped and everything is well mixed.

To assemble:
Put half of the crumb mixture into a greased 9×13 pan. Spread it out evenly and pat down firmly to make a solid bottom crust. Top with the chopped fruit. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the fruit. (I squeezed some of the crumbs with my fingers to make larger clumps.)

Bake the bars at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before cutting and serving. Leftovers freeze well.

This same time, years previous: tamales, eggnog, in which I throw my bread on the floor and stomp on it, delight


  • Unknown

    I'm only hoping when I ziplist your recipe that "dead" and "mouse" don't end up in the ingredients list! Thanks for the laugh and the promise of yummy treats if I follow your instructions. 🙂

  • Mavis

    We are currently waiting for the rat who bit off his tail to free himself from the trap and die in the upstairs attic. It's been 2 days and I can still hear him thrashing about. Cranberry bars look good. I'm totally making them!

    P.S. I think it is totally normal to come over here and read about mice and a recipe all in one story. 😉

  • Kathy ~ Artful Accents

    My child who can't throw away anything is also my child who would stick his hand fearlessly up into a light fixture to pull out a dead mouse! I can relate to having animals in the house…apparently our crawlspace is crawling with black snakes! And who is most excited about this discovery? Yes, the aforementioned child.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe, now I know exactly what I'm going to do with that bag of frozen cranberries I grabbed on sale after T'giving.

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    They're beautiful. Oh, and you're the only person I know who can blog about opposite things (like dead mice and yummy cranberry bars) in the same post and it's okay. That's talent, my dear:-).

    • Jennifer Jo

      Oh goodness! Did I really just DO that? I wasn't even paying attention! (I mean, I KNEW what I was writing about, but I wasn't ATTENDING to the whole picture.) Perhaps "talent" = "ditzy?"

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