It's high time we break cranberries out of the confines of being a much-maligned side dish at Thanksgiving dinner. These fruits are available fresh in the fall, but most of us would never eat even one little cranberry the way we eat more common fruit (raw like an apple? Thanks, but no thanks!). It packs a powerful pucker punch. And yet, the bright spark of flavor and color of cranberries is perfect as an addition to sweet or savory fall dishes, or even distilled spirits.

Cranberry bogs along the coast are the source for much of our local cranberry harvest each fall (read about the harvest process here). There's even a cranberry festival in Bandon. The harvest is finished by now (September and October are the high times for cranberry picking), but those beautiful crimson berries are waiting for our creative cooking ideas. Here are a few quick tips.

For the savoryadd to sauteed greens (toss in some nuts too, like walnuts or almonds, as an extra flavor and texture contrast). Kale, swiss chard (especially the rainbow chard will be beautiful studded with cranberries), and collard greens all are great sauteed in olive oil with some fresh cranberries in the mix.

For the spirits: Indulge in some of Clear Creek Distillery's Cranberry Liqueur ($30 for a 750 ml bottle). The cranberries that Clear Creek uses are grown along the southern Oregon coast. They proclaim, "This liqueur is entirely true to the fruit: dark red, tart, lightly sweet, and very fruity."

And last but not least, for the sweet, try Cranberry Lemon Cookies from the Winter Harvest Cookbook by Northwest author Lane Morgan.

Cranberry Lemon Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (can use succanat) 
2 eggs
1 cup milk (can use unsweetened soy milk) 
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon rind, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light. Add eggs, milk, lemon jouce and vanilla and beat until smooth. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in dry ingredients (to wet ingredients). Then add cranberries and lemon rind and mix well.

Refrigerate dough for at least an hour to firm. Drop by spoonfuls into a preparered cookie sheet (i.e., greased or with silicone pad) and bake until tops are firm and bottoms are light brown. Cool before serving.

Makes 3 dozen.