Cooking your way through the holiday season can be difficult if someone in your family is diabetic, lactose intolerant or on a restricted diet.

This cranberry sauce recipe — sweetened primarily with fruit — was originally designed with diabetics in mind. Since it has a distinctly tart-sweet taste, it isn’t something you might mistake for the regular canned stuff from the supermarket, but it packs enough flavor to please even the non-dieters among your guests. You can’t call it a quick-and-easy item, but while it does require time in the refrigerator, it’s easily put together and is one of those convenient things that can be made a day or two ahead of time.

The finished product is a nice shade of red, and it’s especially pretty served in a green or white bowl.

The ingredients call for 1 1/2 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries — a 12-ounce package contains approximately 3 cups or about twice the amount needed for a single batch of this cranberry sauce.

To use, rinse fresh cranberries with cold water and drain. Leftover cranberries will keep in the freezer for up to a year, but do not wash before freezing. When you're ready to use them, do not thaw — just rinse with cold water and drain.

Some people are allergic to artificial sweeteners, and with that in mind, I usually make this a low-sugar dish rather than a no-sugar-added recipe. Just substitute from 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar, to taste, for the sweetener.

FESTIVE CRANBERRY-FRUIT SAUCE

Ingredients:


1/2 cup of water
1 1/2  cup fresh or unsweetened frozen cranberries
1 cup fresh or unsweetened frozen pitted dark sweet cherries
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
3 packages sugar substitute or replacement

Directions:


In medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to boil. Reduce heat to medium and add cranberries. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberry skins pop (about 2 minutes).
Add cherries and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft. With potato masher, crush fruit slightly. Texture should be coarse.
Stir in undrained pineapple, cinnamon, vanilla extract, orange extract and zest. (If you are substituting granulated sugar, add it at this point.) Continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in sugar substitute.
It you prefer your cranberry sauce smooth rather than chunky, puree it in a blender or food processor after adding the artificial sweetener. Pour into serving bowl or mold. Cover and chill at least two hours, or until ready to serve. Chilling firms up the mixture.

This recipe will make 12 servings (about 3 tablespoons each). Diabetics using the exchange system can count each serving as half a fruit exchange. And in case you’re a calorie counter, that’s about 30 calories per serving.

If there’s some cranberry sauce leftover after Thanksgiving dinner, use it with some leftover turkey for sandwiches. Spread toasted bread with mayonnaise on one slice and cranberry sauce on the other. Add 3 crisp slices of bacon, lettuce and sliced turkey.

If you’d rather not bother with freezing that half bag of cranberries leftover from making the sauce, use it for a batch of holiday relish. Wash and drain the cranberries. Remove seeds from half of a large orange (do not peel), and cut into three slices. Peel and core half a large apple, cutting it into several thick slices. Put it all through a food grinder, or chop it in a blender, mix well, chill thoroughly and serve.

It’s especially good with chicken, turkey or pork. Or you can surprise your family by adding a note of holiday cheer to the weekend hamburgers. Just mix equal parts of cranberry relish and simple coleslaw made with small chopped or grated white cabbage. You can either spread it on the bottom halves of your hamburger buns or serve it on the side.

Mary Ryder is a food columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email her at practicalpotwatcher@cfl.rr.com.