Let me explain something about cooking: being adventurous in the kitchen requires no talent. It requires guts and patience. Guts because you need to dare yourself to think out of the box and try things you wouldn't normally try, and patience because sometimes it won't work out.
Making a batch of cranberry sauce can get pretty interesting once you start toying with the ingredients. Instead of cooking the berries in water, try other liquids like wine, juice, or even a little bit of vinegar. And to add flavor, why not add citrus zest, candied nuts, fruits like pears, dried apricots, currants, crystallized ginger and spices and herbs like cardamom, rosemary, and cloves? As long as you don't use too many (keep it to three or less added ingredients), can imagine the different flavors working harmoniously, and you understand how to make the basic sauce (easy!), you won't mess up.
Here's the basic Frills formula:
Cranberry Sauce with Frills
makes 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups
12-oz bag fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
Up to 1 cup liquid (see note below)
Up to 3/4 cup sugar or brown sugar (depending on your other ingredients, you may have to adjust)
Additional ingredients (see note below)
Bring liquid(s) and sugar to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and other ingredients, lower flame to a simmer, and continue stirring occasionally. Cook until most of the berries just pop, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary (dissolved in 2x the amount of water and brought to a boil briefly.) Can be made ahead of time, cover and stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Liquids: Try Port, Marsala, orange juice, apple or cherry cider, a dash of vinegar, even a few spoonfuls of liquor like Grand Marnier)
- Grated citrus zest (orange, lemon, even lime) - 1 1/2 teaspoons
- Spices (ground ginger, ground cardamom, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice) - 1/4 - 1 1/2 teaspoons, depending on how strong the spice is (clove is very strong)
- Fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, marjoram) - 1 teaspoon or more
- Candied/dried fruits and nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, ginger, apricots, currants) - 1/4 cup
- Fresh Fruits (pears, apples) - 2-3 cups (chopped)
Now go on, get wild in the kitchen. I dare you.