Spicy Pickled Mushrooms

picture799I love pickled mushrooms right out of the jar.  With just the right combination of garlic, peppery spice, and tangy salt, pickled mushrooms make a great lunchtime side dish or midnight snack.  They are also pretty darn fabulous as a Bloody Mary garnish, or so I’m told.  😉  These are super easy to prepare, keep well in the refrigerator, and make great gifts when preserved in jars.

A word of advice… mushrooms shrink a LOT when simmered in any liquid, as they are in this recipe.  I’m telling you, they shrink a LOT.  However many mushrooms you “think” you need when you’re staring at them at the market, well, you need twice that many.




picture792Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts or 4 pints)

3 pounds white button mushrooms

3 ¾ cups white vinegar

2 2/3 cups water

4 ½ tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns (1/4 teaspoon per pint jar, or ½ teaspoon per quart jar)

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (1/2 teaspoon per pint jar, or 1 teaspoon per quart jar)

4 cloves garlic, halved (2 halves per pint jar, or 4 halves per quart jar)


Step 1) Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.

picture793Step 2) Add mushrooms to pot and simmer, covered, 10 minutes.

Step 3) Divide peppercorns, cayenne pepper, and garlic between sterilized canning jars.

Step 4) Fill jars with mushrooms and cover with brine from pot, leaving ½ inch of headspace.  Be sure to poke through to the bottom of the jar a few times (a chopstick works well for this), to eliminate air bubbles.

Step 5) Cover jars with lids and bands.  Pickled mushrooms will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month “as is.”  Alternatively, if you process the jars in a boiling water bath as explained on the canning page, your pickled mushrooms will last for at least a year.

Step 6) For maximum flavor, allow the brine to work its magic inside of the jars for at least a week before enjoying your mushrooms.

Asian-Inspired Brussels Sprouts


I would have guessed it was too early in the growing season for Brussels sprouts, so imagine my surprise when I found a perky looking bin of fresh, bright green baby Brussels sprouts at the market!  Fabulous!  It’s a wonder these little gems are so small, for all of the nutrition they manage to contain.  A single cup of Brussels sprouts contains 4 grams of fiber, approximately 25% of your daily Vitamin A and folic acid requirement, and way more than a day’s worth of vitamins C and K… all for about 55 calories.

Many people think they dislike Brussels sprouts, which is a real shame.  This vegetable is truly delicious, when it isn’t boiled so sorrowfully long that it’s vibrant color, fresh flavor, and pleasing crunch fades away.  If that has been your only experience with Brussels sprouts, please, give this recipe a try.  I think you’ll enjoy it, and I know the hefty shot of vitamins will make you feel great!

Ingredients (makes 2 side dish servings)

2 heaping cups of baby Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup water

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds


Step 1) Combine Brussels sprouts, sesame oil, and water in a shallow pan with a tight fitting lid.  Cover and cook over high heat for 5 minutes.  Shake pan occasionally so that Brussels sprouts don’t stick to the bottom, but do not lift the lid!

Step 2) After 5 minutes, remove the lid and reduce heat to low.  Add garlic, honey, and soy sauce to pan.  Cook with stirring for 3 minutes.

Step 3) Remove from heat, garnish with sesame seeds, and serve.  So easy!

New Freebie! Share a recipe, win this book!

PandoraCoverPandora’s Lunchbox, by Melanie Warner

Win This Book!  Submit one or more recipes to The Global Recipe Project!  One entry will be randomly selected on July 31st to win a free copy of this great book!

Each recipe counts as one entry – enter as many times as you like! 

As teenagers and college students are prone to saying around bites of junk food, “Just, Wow!” Based upon the author’s diverse writing background, including two years as a staff reporter for The New York Times, I was hopeful that Pandora’s Lunchbox would be well written and engaging. As a chemist and an educator myself, I was hopeful that this book would find and walk the line between depth of accurate food science detail and clarity of presentation for a wide audience. Melanie Warner delivered on both counts. And delivered, and delivered some more!

Pandora’s Lunchbox is as smartly written as it is impossible to set down. From her personal food “experiments” (Did this used to be a chicken nugget? Is that facial mask or avocado dip?) to her broadly painted historical overview to the interview vignettes which highlight her journalistic expertise, Melanie Warner illustrates the landscape of modern day processed food in stark detail. Ms. Warner begins by explaining what a processed food is not (“pasteurized milk…. frozen peas, canned beans… frozen ground beef shaped into hamburgers”) before succinctly clarifying what we are really talking about: “A processed food is something that could not be made, with the same ingredients, in a home kitchen. Your home kitchen” (p. xvi).

Prior to reading this book, I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on the “no-no’s” of processed food. Little did I know! Pandora’s Lunchbox had me rethinking the origins (and wisdom) of my daily multivitamin, the journey of ingredients in my children’s “healthy” breakfast cereal, and even my store bought loaf of whole grain bread. As I progressed from chapter to chapter, I was both humbled by how little I knew and inspired to do better for my own health and the health of my family.

Pandora’s Lunchbox confronts the business realities of the food industry, where processing and preservatives allow longer shelf lives and lower costs, corporate shareholders demand high profits over high nutrition, and consumers respond to slick marketing and artificial flavors. Melanie Warner ends her well written book with 216 referenced endnotes, placing well organized facts gently and firmly in the hands of her readers. Read Pandora’s Lunchbox, and you will – to your benefit – never experience a trip to the supermarket quite the same way again.

Lemon Ginger Marmalade

picture845Lemon Ginger Marmalade 

When I can’t hop on an airplane myself, I enjoy traveling vicariously through the stories of others.  It’s not the beaches that captivate me, nor the mountains that hold my attention.  No, when friends return from fascinating, far away places, I want to hear about the food.

When friends returned from South Korea, I was intrigued by stories of citron marmalade.  The idea stuck with me, and when I found a reasonably priced bag of organic lemons, I couldn’t resist tinkering with this recipe.  Its lovely sweet/sour flavor is pleasant on crackers, and is delightful as a glaze on white fish such as flounder.  Enjoy!



2 pounds of organic lemons (about 8 organic lemons)*

1 piece of fresh ginger, about 1 inch thick and 4 inches long

1 1/2 cups water

6 cups white sugar

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

*Yes, your lemons really, really do need to be organic.  Why?  Because marmalade uses the peel.  Do you want to eat lemon peel that has been treated or sprayed?  Neither do I.


Step 1) Wash your lemons.  No really, WASH your lemons.  Scrub them in hot water for a few minutes.  You’re eating the peel, remember?

Step 2)  Peel your lemons with a vegetable peeler.  This is surprisingly fast, and works well to separate the thin layer of bright yellow zest (which you want) from the thick layer of bitter white pith (which you do NOT want). ~~~

Step 3)  Slice your lemon peels into thin strips using a paring knife.  My strips ended up being about 1/4 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long.  The dimensions aren’t terribly important.

Step 4)  Peel ginger and slice or grate into “matchstick” size pieces.

picture837Step 5) Add your lemon peel and ginger pieces to a large pot.  Add 1 1/2 cups of water and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Step 6) While the peels are simmering, remove the white pith from your lemons.  Pull the lemons apart into halves and remove the spongy white center.  Remove the seeds, if needed.  The idea here is to have as much “yellow” and as little “white” as possible.  As you are working with your lemons, save all the juice.  Working over a baking pan with shallow sides helps.  Chop up your lemons into little bite size pieces.

Step 7) After the peels and ginger have simmered for 20 minutes, add the chopped lemons and any juice you’ve collected.  Simmer, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

Step 8)  Add 6 cups of white sugar to the pot, keep stirring, and bring that pot to a Mad Boil… the kind of boil that is too fierce to calm down, even with stirring!

Step 9)  Once you have achieved a Mad Boil, add your pectin.  Continue stirring and boiling for one more minute.  Remove from heat.  Your kitchen will smell fantastic right about now.

Step 10)  Review Crowded Earth Kitchen’s canning guidelines, and fill your sterilized, half pint canning jars.  Be sure to leave 1/4 inch of headspace.  Place lids and bands on your jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 1o minutes.


Summer Iced Teas


Iced tea is a classic summertime beverage.  Summertime is short where I live, and folks tend to make the most of every ray of sunshine.  There’s no need to get clever with this… time’s a-wastin’, and we need to get outside!  Go boil some water, grab a few mason jars and a few scoops of deliriously cold ice cubes.  We can be outside in the warm sun in ten minutes, keeping cool with this refreshing, minty-tart drink!

picture781Ingredients (makes 2 pint-size drinks)

3 cups boiling water

4 tablespoons of dried peppermint

1/4 cup of frozen cranberries

3 cups ice cubes


Step 1) Cut frozen cranberries in half with a paring knife.

Step 2) Steep peppermint and cranberries in boiling hot water for 10 minutes.  I use my French press coffeepot for this.  Alternatively, you could tie your peppermint and cranberries in a piece of cheesecloth, and steep in a kettle.  You could also just add the peppermint and cranberries “loose” to a pot of boiling water, and then strain through a sieve.  So many choices!

Step 3) Divide ice cubes between two, pint size mason jars.

Step 4) Pour steeped tea over ice cubes.  Enjoy!

Orange Sponge Cake


This is a grand summertime cake!  Bursting with orange flavor, simply dust this cake with powdered sugar and decorate with candied orange peel – you’ll never notice the absence of traditional frosting (which typically adds around 200 calories per piece of cake!).  This recipe gives you a great excuse to dust off the tube pan lurking in the back of one of your kitchen cabinets, and the resulting cake is pretty enough to stand out at your next outdoor party.  Enjoy a slice for me!

picture599Ingredients (serves 12)

6 eggs, whites and yolks divided

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (use an organic orange for this!)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier liquor or orange picture600extract

1 1/2 cup sugar, divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup portions

1 1/4 cups white flour

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar


picture602Step 1) Using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks for 5 minutes on high speed.  Add orange zest, orange juice, and Grand Marnier.  Slowly add 1 cup sugar, blending at low speed.  Gradually increase speed to medium, and blend mixture for 3 more minutes.  The mixture should be thick, and should double in volume.

Step 2) “Sprinkle and fold” flour into egg picture603yolk mixture, 1/4 cup at a time.  In other words, sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the egg yolk mixture, and gently fold the egg yolk mixture over the flour using a rubber scraper.  Repeat until all flour has been added.  Do NOT over mix.

Step 3) Using a scrupulously clean mixing bowl and beaters, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until soft picture604peaks form (see photo).  This will probably take 2 or 3 minutes.  Then, slowly add 1/2 cup of sugar, adding 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form.  (see photo).

Step 4) Now we need to combine the yolk mixture and the white mixture without losing all of the “poof” we just created with the electric mixer!  To do this, gently fold 1 cup of the white mixture into the yolk picture605mixture.  Then, fold all of the yolk mixture into the white mixture.  Don’t overthink it… just combine the two mixtures as gently as possible.

Step 5) Transfer the batter into an ungreased tube pan, approximately 10 inches in diameter (“standard” size).  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for approximately 55 minutes.  The top of the picture606cake should feel springy when touched.  If you press gently with your finger and the imprint doesn’t bounce back, give the cake a few more minutes.

Step 6) Remove from oven and tip the pan over to cool.  I find that balancing the pan on a bottle (a beer bottle or a wine bottle, don’t judge) works well.  After cake has cooled completely, slowly loosen cake from picture608the sides of the pan with a butter knife and gently shake onto a serving plate.  If your cake doesn’t come out of the pan perfectly, don’t panic.  Powdered sugar and candied orange peel will hide “cake owies” very well!

Step 7) Dust, decorate, and enjoy!

About that candied orange peel… simply peel an orange using a potato peeler, to get picture607thin slices of peel without the white pith.  Add the peel to a small pan with 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar.  Simmer for 10 minutes, remove peel, and place peel on a baking sheet.  Dry peel in a 250 degree oven for 20 minutes, while your cake is cooling!

Easy Eggplant Dip


What’s not to love about eggplant?  This versatile vegetable contains a healthy dose of fiber, a variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, and important trace minerals such as manganese – all for 20 calories per cup!  Today we are preparing a simple, nutritious dip using only four ingredients:  eggplant, lemon, garlic, and tahini.  Also known as sesame paste, tahini looks a bit like peanut butter (with roughly the same number of calories and fat grams per tablespoon), but has a very distinct, very rich flavor.  A little goes a long way.

Quick side note:  This dip will thicken if refrigerated overnight – it is best enjoyed fresh!

Ingredients (makes 3 cups)

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups)

2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon tahini


Step 1) Grease a roasting pan with grapeseed oil (or another oil of your choosing; pick something that won’t scorch at high oven temperatures).  Place eggplant on roasting pan in a single layer, and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring once.


Spicture462tep 2) Combine eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a blender and puree until desired consistency is achieved.  Don’t be afraid to leave a few lumps and bumps – a bit of texture is pleasing!

Serve with pita wedges, whole grain crackers, or vegetable crudités.  Enjoy!