Ginger Pickled Vegetables

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Ginger Picked Vegetables is a super easy canning recipe, and offers a quick and tasty way of preserving a few pounds of vegetables.  Go ahead and take advantage of that great sale at the market, or plant an extra row in your garden!  You’ll love these vegetables in stir-fry dinners, or right out of the jar.

Ingredients (makes 6 pint jars)

4 pounds of pickling vegetables (carrots, beans, radishes, zucchini, and small onions work well)

1 cup of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into pieces resembling matchsticks

1 tablespoon whole allspice

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 cups water

3 cups white vinegar

Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients except for pickling vegetables and ginger in a large pot.  Bring to a gentle boil, stirring so that the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Reduce heat and simmer for another minute or two, until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Step 2) Line up 6 sterilized, pint size jars.  Pack the ginger and vegetables into the jars, being careful to distribute the ginger evenly between the jars.  Really pack the vegetables in tightly, but be sure to leave 1/2 inch headspace (no less!) at the top.  If your vegetables touch the top, the jars won’t seal!

Step 3) Carefully ladle the hot liquid into your jars.  Poke out air bubbles, clean the rims of the jars with a damp cloth, and seal with lids and bands.

Step 4) Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Best flavors are attained after 1 month.  Jars should keep for a year, but remember to always test the lids before eating canned goods!  In my opinion, this recipe tastes best when only one variety of vegetable goes into each jar.  You may feel differently.  Which varieties of vegetables will you try?  Let me know how your Ginger Pickled Vegetables turn out!

Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

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Imagine the flavors of pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves mingled together on your breakfast plate… it’s no wonder that this recipe includes very little sugar, yet tastes sinfully sweet.  Even better, this pancake batter is bound together with whole wheat flour.  No white flour here, folks.  So go ahead and enjoy.  You won’t even want syrup on these, they’re that good.

Ingredients (makes 10 large pancakes, or 5 servings)

1 thinly sliced apple

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups skim milk

2 eggs

2 tablespoons oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

picture397Directions

Step 1) Combine pumpkin, sugar, skim milk, eggs, and oil in a large bowl.  Mix well.

Step 2) Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix until just combined.  It’s OK if your batter has a few lumps.

Step 3) Place your griddle or large sauté pan over low – medium heat.  Spray picture398pan with canola oil.  Place 2 apple slices in the pan.

*Note:  The heavy amount of baking powder in this recipe means that your pancakes will expand more than you might expect!  Leave at least two inches between pancakes in your pan… really.

Step 4) Ladle batter over apple slices and wait.  These pancakes require a bit longer to cook on each side than conventional pancakes.  Check with the edge of your spatula after 3 minutes.  Somewhere between 3 – 5 minutes, the bottom of your pancakes should be cooked and lightly browned.

Step 5) Carefully flip your pancakes.  If an apple slice falls off, just put it back where it belongs and move forward with your day.

Step 6) Wait another 3 – 6 minutes for the bottom side to turn golden brown.  Poke the middle of a pancake with a toothpick and remove.  If the toothpick is clean, your pancakes are done.

Step 7) Serve while still hot, apple side up!  If you love toppings on your pancakes, I recommend applesauce instead of maple syrup.  But hey, it’s your breakfast.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Bolognese

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This very simple Bolognese sauce begins with a batch of I Miss My Garden Sauce, incorporates three more ingredients, and Voila!  With minimal effort, you will have a fancy dish to impress your guests!  Like any decent Bolognese, this sauce requires several hours of simmer time, but don’t let that scare you away.  This recipe is really stone simple, you just have to be patient!  Bolognese is traditionally served with pasta, but here at Crowded Earth Kitchen we’re lightening things up a bit by using spaghetti squash as a base.  Either way, this sauce is delicious.  Have fun!

Ingredients (makes 10 cups of sauce plus two large squash halves)

2 pounds ground beef, 85% lean

8 cups of I Miss My Garden Sauce

2 cups cabernet sauvignon or other dry red wine

2 cups chicken broth (preferred) or vegetable broth (vegan substitute)

Directions for Bolognese Sauce

Step 1) Brown ground beef by cooking and stirring over low-medium heat for 20 minutes.  Drain.

Step 2) Add I Miss My Garden Sauce to ground beef and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3) Add 1 cup of wine and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 4) Add 1 cup of broth and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 5) Repeat Step 3.

Step 6) Repeat Step 4.

You’re done now, if you’re happy with the consistency of your Bolognese.  If it’s too thick, add a bit more wine or broth (your choice – taste the sauce first).  If it’s too thin, simmer for a few more minutes.

picture477Directions for Spaghetti Squash

Step 1) Poke about a dozen holes in the spaghetti squash with a fork.

Step 2) Microwave the whole squash for about 8 minutes.  Let sit 5 minutes.

Step 3) Carefully cut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

Step 4) Pull tines of a fork “across the grain” to loosen the spaghetti squash threads.

Step 5) Serve Bolognese Sauce in squash halves, like a big bowl, or cut squash into individual serving sizes and smother with sauce.  Garnish with thinly sliced sundried tomatoes, if desired.

Delicious!

Garden Fresh Meatballs

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Today we’re making a whole lot of delicious meatballs – plenty for dinner tonight AND plenty for your freezer.  I like to smother trays of these meatballs with I Miss My Garden Sauce, shown above, and freeze for a day when I’m too busy to cook (it happens).  Just thaw, heat, and serve!

I’ve experimented with ground beef of varying fat contents, and I find that 85% lean makes the best meatballs.  You can use leaner ground beef if you wish, but when I’ve used, say, 93% lean, I feel like I am paying more only to end up with dry meatballs.  Feel free to try different types of ground beef; the decision is entirely up to you.

picture467Ingredients (makes 60 meatballs)

4 pounds ground beef, 85% lean

1 slice whole wheat bread, ground up into fresh crumbs

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1/2 of a green pepper

1/2 of a yellow onion

3 sundried tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

picture468Directions

Step 1) In a small blender or food processor, puree green pepper, onion, sundried tomatoes and garlic.

Step 2) Combine all ingredients, including puree, in a large bowl.  Mix with clean hands until all ingredients are incorporated into the ground beef.

picture470Step 3) Pinch off golf ball size pieces of ground beef mixture and roll into balls.  Place one inch apart on shallow baking pans (you’ll need at least two).  Cover with foil and chill for 30 minutes.

Step 4) After meatballs chill, you can finish them one of two ways:

Option 1, you can place a dozen or so in a picture472frying pan at a time, and cook them on the stovetop for approximately 10 minutes over low-medium heat.  You will need to shake the pan handle often to roll the meatballs around and prevent sticking.  This method makes nice, round, “company suitable” meatballs.  The disadvantage is that you need to work in small batches, which will take a while.

Option 2, you can bake your meatballs all at once in a preheated, 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  This method is faster and tastes exactly the same, but sometimes the bottoms of the meatballs have a slight, flat surface.  It’s up to you.  Either way, enjoy your dinner!

Looking for something a little fancier than meatballs?  OK.  Next time on Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll make Bolognese Sauce!

I Miss My Garden Sauce

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Every year as May approaches, I find myself in a vegetable conundrum.  The many quarts of vegetables preserved from last year’s organic backyard garden have lasted through the long winter months, but are now almost gone.  I can finally “play in the dirt” once again, my garden plot having lost its blanket of snow.  Alas, while planting season is fun, it offers nothing to bring back from the garden to the kitchen.  I’ll try to be patient for a few more weeks.  Meanwhile, I Miss My Garden Sauce offers the next best thing… homemade flavor coaxed from wholesome, organic ingredients (even if they aren’t from my own backyard).

This sauce offers a lot more nutrition than jarred spaghetti sauce, without any of the added sugar (Don’t believe me? Read the label on one of those jars at the supermarket.) It’s also a FANTASTIC recipe for hiding vegetables that children (and some grown-ups!) think they don’t like.  I won’t tell if you won’t tell.

Have fun shopping for the best produce you can find for this recipe – finding quality organic items at the market is part of the fun, and the gentle growing practices of organic farming are beneficial for our Crowded Earth!

picture484Ingredients (makes about 12 cups)

2 large (28  ounce) cans of organic tomatoes

1 head organic cauliflower

4 large organic carrots

1 organic onion

picture4853 bulbs organic garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

picture486Directions

Step 1) Cut the tops off of each bulb of garlic as shown.  Place all three bulbs of garlic in the center of a large square of foil.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the tops of the bulbs.  Gather up the sides of the foil and pinch together above the garlic.  Set aside.

picture492Step 2) Grease a large roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Chop cauliflower, carrots, and onion into bite-size chunks and place on roasting pan.  Cover with both cans of tomatoes (including juice).

Step 3) Place roasting pan and foil pack of garlic in oven, and roast at 400 degrees until vegetables are soft, approximately 45 minutes.  It’s OK if the tops of a few veggies picture489blacken, but be sure to stir the pan with a spatula once or twice to keep the bottom from sticking.

Step 4) Transfer roasted vegetables to a large pot.

Step 5) Carefully open foil packet of roasted garlic.  Turn each bulb upside down over the pot, and squeeze garlic into pot.  (This is picture493surprisingly messy; the papery garlic skins will stick to your hands.  Just wash your hands.  You’ll live.)

Step 6) Puree contents of pot with an immersion blender.  Blend in oregano, basil, and pepper.  That’s all – you’re done!  If the sauce is too thick for your liking, thin with a little bit of vegetable broth, chicken broth, or tomato juice.

This sauce tastes even better if you allow the flavors to blend in the refrigerator for a day or two.  Next up on Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll make fabulous meatballs to enjoy with this sauce.  Stay tuned!

This was fun, but I still miss my garden.

Carrot Cake Jam

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Among friends and family, this is my most requested jam.  I keep cheerful little half-pint jars of Carrot Cake Jam on hand at all times, because it makes such a perfect hostess gift, teacher gift, get well soon offering, thank you acknowledgment… you get the idea.  I’m telling you, this jam tastes exactly like carrot cake, without all of the fat (and accompanying calories).  Mix a few tablespoons into a cup of low fat yogurt for a quick fruit dip, or spread it on toasted slices of Easter Bread.  You’re going to love this!

A note about color:  I add brown sugar to Carrot Cake Jam because I like the warm depth of flavor that brown sugar imparts.  I don’t mind the resulting, darker jam color.  If you’d prefer a bright orange Carrot Cake Jam, along with a lighter flavor, simply substitute the 2 cups of brown sugar for an additional 2 cups of white sugar.

picture565Ingredients (makes 9 half-pint jars)

3 cups finely shredded carrots (about 4 large carrots)

1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled pear (1 large or 2 small pears)

1 15 ounce can crushed pineapple in natural pineapple juice (do not drain)

picture5662 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

7 tablespoons powdered pectin

picture5672 cups dark brown sugar

4 cups white sugar

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Directions

Step 1) Combine finely shredded carrots, finely chopped pear, undrained pineapple, picture569lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in a large pot.  Bring to a boil while stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Step 2) Remove from heat.  Mix pectin into 1 cup of white sugar, and add to pot.  Stir until pectin and sugar dissolve.

Step 3) Bring pot to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add remaining 3 cups of white sugar and 2 cups of brown sugar.  Stir over medium-high heat until the pot comes to a full boil that cannot be stirred down.  Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.

Step 4) Ladle jam into sterilized canning jars.  Wipe rims and cover with lids and bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Let sit on protected countertop for 24 hours before giving as gifts (or eating with a spoon, right out of the jar!).

 

 

All Natural Easter Eggs

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Hop.  Hop.  Hippity Hop!  That bunny will be here in just a few days, and wouldn’t it be fun if he arrived with a basket of all natural, beautifully dyed Easter eggs?  This spring, let’s leave those artificial dye pellets in all of their excess packaging at the market, and opt for coloring eggs with a few simple kitchen ingredients instead.  It’s safe, economical, and fun!

picture532Ingredients (makes 18 hard boiled Easter eggs)

18 eggs

water (1 cup per dye color, plus water for cooking eggs)

vinegar (1 tablespoon per color)

picture550 (2)1 cup coffee (for chocolate brown color)

1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage (for robin’s egg blue color)

1 tablespoon ground paprika (for caramel color)

2 tablespoons dill seed (for pale yellow color)

picture5481 red beet (for gray color)

Other ideas (not shown):

1/2 cup shredded spinach (for pastel green color)

1 tablespoon ground turmeric (for gold color)

Directions

Step 1) Place eggs gently in a single layer in a large pan, and cover completely with water.

Step 2) Bring pan to a gentle simmer and cover.  Cook eggs at a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove eggs from water.

picture547Step 3) For chocolate brown eggs:  Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of cold coffee in a 2-cup container.  Add up to three eggs (double the vinegar and coffee if you wish to color more than three eggs using coffee).

Step 4) For blue eggs: Bring shredded cabbage and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Drain picture545liquid into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.  Note:  adding vinegar to your cabbage water will turn the water pink.  Your eggs will still turn out blue.  Ah, the marvels of chemistry!  Note:  follow this same procedure using spinach instead of cabbage, if you’d like to make pastel green eggs.

Step 3) For gray eggs:  Peel one red beet.  Bring the peels and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Drain liquid into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.

Step 4) For yellow eggs:  Lightly crush dill seed with a mortar and pestle, a meat tenderizer, or 1 -2 seconds in a grinder.   Add to 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes before draining liquid into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.

Step 5) For caramel colored eggs:  Boil 1 cup of water with paprika.  Filter through a coffee filter into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.  Follow this same procedure if you plan to try using turmeric.

Step 6) For all colors:  Place your 2-cup containers of all natural dye and hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator.  Allow eggs to soak in dye at least overnight; 24 hours is best.  Remove eggs from dye and allow to air dry on a paper towel.  Dyed eggs will have a matte finish.  If you’d prefer shiny eggs, carefully rub them with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.