Homemade BBQ Sauce


Homemade BBQ Sauce

My Great Grandmother used to make a mild, sweet BBQ sauce which became a comfort food for her grandchildren.  If I were making BBQ sauce exclusively for my mother, I wouldn’t dare tamper with her Grandma’s original recipe!  Today, however, I was in a tinkering mood, and decided to use Great Grandma’s recipe as a base for something a bit less sweet and a tad more spicy. It’s pretty darn good. Don’t tell my Mom.  😉

Ingredients (Makes 4 cups)

1 large onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


Step 1) Caramelize onion in butter by stirring constantly over low-medium heat for 10 – 12 minutes until onion is very soft and golden brown.

Step 2) Slowly add vinegar, brown sugar, lemon juice, Worchestershire sauce, and molasses. Stir until well combined.

Step 3) Add tomatoes and all remaining (dry) spices. Stir. Simmer gently for WIN_20150105_16274715 minutes to thicken slightly and blend flavors.  Serve as desired; store any leftover sauce in refrigerator.

Serving Suggestions

Meatball Hoagies: Spread BBQ sauce generously inside of fresh rolls. Top with cooked (hot) meatballs and provolone cheese.

Party Snacks: Add desired amount of bite size sausages or ring bologna WIN_20150105_163858slices to a slow cooker. Top with BBQ sauce and stir. Keep warm and serve on a party buffet with toothpicks.

Grill Accompaniment: Whether you’re grilling chicken, ribs, or something else, serve this BBQ sauce alongside!

Better-than-cocktail Sauce: Try this BBQ sauce, chilled, in a shrimp cocktail. Delicious!

Not-From-A-Can Cinnamon Rolls

picture713Those refrigerated “peel and pop” cans of cinnamon rolls, ready to bake and complete with icing, are convenient.  Truth be told, they don’t taste half bad. But homemade cinnamon rolls they are NOT… nothing made with ingredients you can’t pronounce (read the can!) quite compares to a truly homemade cinnamon roll.

“How much work are these, really?”

You’ll expend about 30 minutes of effort kneading, rolling, mixing, and slicing.  Now, be honest… if you drive to the grocery store, pick out a peel and pop can of cinnamon roll dough, stand in line to pay for it, and drive back home, how long will THAT take?

Go ahead – roll up your sleeves, and get ready to play with flour!

Ingredients (makes about 24 cinnamon rolls)

2 cups lukewarm (not boiling) water

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup canola oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

4 cups white flour

For the filling:

1 stick of real butter, melted

1 cup of brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup chopped pecans (or substitute raisins)

For the icing:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk


Step 1)  Combine sugar and lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in yeast, and allow to sit for a minute or two until the surface of the water appears a bit creamy.

Step 2) Add dry milk, salt, and oil to the picture331yeast mixture.  Stir in flours, one cup at a time, and transfer dough to a floured tabletop.

Step 3) Knead dough for a few minutes until a smooth ball forms.  Add a bit more flour as needed, to prevent sticking.  Transfer dough to a large bowl which has been greased with canola oil.

picture334Step 4) Cover bowl with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size.  This will take about an hour in a warm location, such as an oven that has been warmed to 100 degrees and then turned off.

Step 5) Punch the bowl of risen dough a few times to release air bubbles (this is fun!).   Knead on a floured tabletop for a few minutes.  Divide dough in half, and roll picture714into two long rectangles, each about 5 inches by 16 inches.

Step 6) Combine filling ingredients in a small bowl. Spread filling over dough rectangles, being careful NOT to place filling picture708within 1 inch of one of the long edges, as shown above.

Step 7) Carefully roll the long side lined with filling toward the long side with the plain edge. The plain edge should be on the bottom of your long roll when you are finished. We’re using gravity to help seal the rolls.

Step 8) Slice each long roll into 1 1/2 inch slices. The easiest way to do this is with dental floss!  Slide a piece of floss under the dough and “tie” a slice right through the roll.  So easy!

Step 9) Lay the rolls 2 inches apart on generously greased baking sheets.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 10) Bake rolls for approximately 12 minutes, until the dough begins to turn a golden color. Carefully remove from baking sheets and allow to cool slightly.

Step 11) Combine icing ingredients and drizzle over cinnamon rolls.  Enjoy!

Ginger Beans


Why do so many people insist on inflicting culinary torture on the poor, humble green bean?  Few vegetables (cabbage comes to mind) are treated so badly, so frequently, by well meaning cooks.  Perhaps green beans are simply too common to inspire much creativity, I don’t know.  Whenever I see green beans boiled into oblivion, over buttered, over salted, and piled on a plate looking like mushy grey-green shells of their former selves, I have to wonder… how many green beans wish they had been born as artichokes instead?

Here’s a five minute, five ingredient recipe that will restore a bit of dignity to the humble green bean while restoring a few of your taste buds.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound of fresh green beans, rinsed and ends trimmed

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced into matchstick pieces

3 drops of sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

1/4 teaspoon sea salt


Step 1) Place ginger, sesame oil, and 1 tablespoon of water on the bottom of a skillet with a tight fitting lid.

Step 2) Add beans, cover, and turn heat to medium-high for one full minute.  Turn off heat, but leave lid on (don’t peek!) for three additional minutes.  The beans will lightly cook, but will retain their crispness, in the resulting steam.

Step 3) Remove lid and stir gently. Garnish with sesame seeds and sea salt.  Serve immediately.



Psst… January Freebie for You!


We’re giving away one free copy of Lizzy & Jane, by Katherine Reay!

Contest Ends: January 30th

How to Win: Mention Crowded Earth Kitchen posts on your Facebook or Twitter accounts!

Every mention/link counts as one entry – enter as many times as you like!


Elizabeth is a talented chef whose personal distractions are interfering with her cooking, which in turn is interfering with the profits of her otherwise admiring boss. Against Elizabeth’s wishes, a celebrity chef is brought in to temporarily assist in turning things around. Elizabeth doesn’t cope with this well, and takes a hiatus from the restaurant.

At this point, the story seemed to invoke plot lines reminiscent of Barbara O’Neal, whose food fiction novels I greatly admire. However, when Elizabeth’s hiatus lands her on the doorstep of Jane, her estranged sister who is fighting a battle with cancer, the story becomes uniquely Katherine Reay’s.

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of cancer themes in fiction novels – not at all. I prefer engaging struggles that are, well, fictional (should the main character follow that amazing guy off into the sunset, or should she take the money she unexpectedly fell into and buy the orchard of her dreams… I like those sorts of fictional struggles!). Reading the gritty details of Jane’s drug treatments, side effects, and resulting family strain made my heart heavy. It was, however, a realistic and gripping portrayal of two sisters trying to repair their relationship, and eventually converted me to the strengths of such realistic fiction.

Throughout the story, Katherine Reay expertly weaves Elizabeth’s cooking struggles effectively into the expanding plot. When Elizabeth turns her cooking talents to the task of preparing meals desirable to the palates of people struggling with food due to the side effects of chemotherapy, the reader is pulled into an aspect of cooking-for-healing that is rarely portrayed in books.

Lizzy & Jane is not a beach read… it won’t make you laugh nearly as often as it will tug at your heart. Nonetheless, for gripping “sister fiction” written with finesse, I highly recommend this book!

Three Recipes in One: Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting


Yes, I’m giving you sugary goodness two posts in a row. The cold weather has addled my brain… I’ll make up for it next week.  For now, we’re going to make seriously fabulous Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins using homemade Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce and homemade Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting.  The Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce is delicious on its own… Half-Pint calls it “Pie Sauce” and will clean up his toys for a dish of this as a reward.  The Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting, well, if you just eat it with graham crackers or a spoon, who am I to judge?  Let’s get started!

WIN_20150122_210432Cranberry Pumpkin Muffin Ingredients (Makes about 15 muffins)

1 cup Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce (see below)

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


Step 1) Whisk together first five ingredients in a large bowl.

Step 2)  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Step 3) Line a muffin tin with foil liners, and fill liners halfway with batter.

Step 4) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 18 – 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Step 5) Allow to cool, then frost with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting (see below).


WIN_20150118_122114Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce Ingredients (Makes about 5 cups)

1 pie pumpkin, approximately 6 – 7 inches in diameter (or, substitute a butternut squash)

8 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon


Step 1) Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Place pumpkin halves cut side down on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 90 minutes. Remove from oven, then proceed to the next step.

Step 2) While the pumpkin cools, cook cranberries, water, and sugar in a in a large pot over medium heat until cranberries pop open. Remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon.

Step 3) Use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh away from the skins.  Add pumpkin flesh to the cranberry sauce, and puree with an immersion blender.  Save 1 cup of sauce for the muffin recipe; eat or freeze the rest!


Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 (8 ounce) package of softened cream cheese, 3 tablespoons of softened butter, 3 tablespoons milk, 4 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  Blend with an electric mixer until well combined. If frosting feels too thick, add another tablespoon of milk.

Tropical Island Cake with Coconut Rum Frosting


Baking a Tropical Island Cake with Coconut Rum Frosting while singing along (badly) to an old Bob Marley CD is my little way of wrinkling my nose at Old Man Winter.  The wind and cold outside my kitchen window just don’t stand a chance against bananas and pineapple, coconut, rum, and reggae music!

WIN_20150104_104344Ingredients (Makes a 9×13 inch sheet cake)

1/2 cup softened butter

2 eggs

3 very ripe, mashed bananas

1 cup fresh, diced pineapple

WIN_20150104_1103001 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, but macadamia nuts would be fabulous, I think!)


Step 1) Grease and flour a 9×13 inch cake pan.

Step 2) In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, eggs, mashed bananas, diced pineapple, and sugar. Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and chopped nuts.

WIN_20150104_115422Step 3) Spread batter into cake pan and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Step 4) Allow to cool completely.  While cake is cooling, prepare Coconut Rum Frosting (below).  Frost cake and sprinkle with coconut.  Enjoy!


Ingredients for Coconut Rum Frosting (cream together all ingredients)

WIN_20150104_1755531/4 cup softened butter

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

2 tablespoons rum

3 tablespoons milk

3 cups powdered sugar

1 drop yellow food coloring

1 cup shredded coconut (to sprinkle on top of frosted cake)


Cascabel Cocoa Filet



Cascabel Cocoa Filet with Green Salad


This is a special occasion food, perhaps an idea to tuck away for a Valentine’s Day dinner or a loved one’s birthday. Beef tenderloin really does go on sale… not often, but when it does, I pick up a few pounds to tuck away in my freezer.  It’s such a high quality cut of meat that it really doesn’t need much preparation and is pretty hard to screw up!

Today, all we’re doing is giving this tenderloin a simple dry rub and roasting it in the oven. Seriously, it’s as simple as that.  Cascabel peppers have a rich flavor and mild heat (with the seeds removed) that stands up well to beef and blends well with high quality cocoa powder for a surprisingly complex, warm dry rub.

WIN_20150104_164814Ingredients (Serves 6)

2 pounds beef tenderloin

4 dried Cascabel peppers, stems and seeds removed

1 heaping tablespoon good quality cocoa


Step 1) Grind Cascabel peppers into a fine powder in a small blender or clean coffee grinder. Add cocoa and combine well.
KRUPS F203 Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder with Stainless Steel Blades, Black

Step 2) Rub pepper and cocoa mixture all over both sides of the beef tenderloin. Place tenderloin in a pan lined with a roasting rack and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

WIN_20150101_173802Step 3) Roast tenderloin in a preheated, 425 degree oven for 35 – 45 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees (for medium-rare) or 160 degrees (for medium, my personal preference).  When desired meat temperature is reached, remove from oven and cover meat loosely with aluminum foil for 5 minutes.  Allowing the meat to rest prevents juices from running everywhere when you slice the tenderloin!

Step 4) After 5 minutes, cut tenderloin across the grain into  1 1/2 inch thick slices. Serve immediately with a green salad and the starch (potatoes, yams, or perhaps squash) of your choice.