Homemade BBQ Sauce

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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

WIN_20150105_162615Directions

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

picture330Directions

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

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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

WIN_20150105_175456Directions

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!

lizzyjane

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

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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

WIN_20150122_181405Directions

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

WIN_20150118_175742Directions

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

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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!)

WIN_20150104_111532Directions

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!

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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

 

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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

Directions

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.

 

Kitchen Gadgets

kitchen gadgets

I’ve added a new page to Crowded Earth Kitchen called “Kitchen Gadget Links“, where I’ll share just a few of my favorite kitchen gadgets with you.  Here’s a sneak peek.  I’m pretty frugal and very low tech in my kitchen… you won’t find anything crazy-expensive or complicated here, just “old standbys” that I use often and highly recommend!

1) CANNING SUPPLIES.  Cooks who learn to preserve food through simple, hot water bath canning save more money than cooks who don’t. Investing in a few basic canning supplies will pay off quickly!

Norpro 6 Piece Canning Set

Granite Ware 0707-1 Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack, 21.5-Quart, Black

2) A STOCKPOT.  You can get away with saucepans and little one-quart pots when you’re living on ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, but when you get serious about cooking, you need a stockpot.  Yes, you do.

Excelsteel 16 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot With Encapsulated Base

3) AN IMMERSION BLENDER. I resisted this for a while, and tried ladling soup back and forth from a stockpot to a standing blender. The first time I burned myself, I stopped being (quite so) cheap and bought an immersion blender.

Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender, Brushed Chrome

4) A BUNDT PAN. I don’t have a huge assortment of baking pans, but I do love my Bundt pan. I use it for everything from delicious, light sponge cakes to decadent pecan rolls. The shape looks fancy – anything baked in a Bundt pan makes a great buffet centerpiece!

Nordic Ware Pro Cast Original Bundt Pan, 12 Cup

5) A FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKER. Best… coffee… ever! Just add coffee grounds and boiling water – this couldn’t be any easier. It works with tea leaves, as well.

French Press – High Premium Coffee Tea & Espresso Maker with 34-Ounce Heat Resistant Glass, Steel Plunger + FREE Bonuses

6) INDIVIDUAL RAMEKIN DISHES. These are great for serving appetizers and desserts.

Norpro 6 Piece Porcelain Ramekin Set

There you have it… a short list of Crowded Earth Kitchen favorites! What’s your favorite gadget in your kitchen? Feel free to comment below!

Jeweled Fruit Cookies

 

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Every December, food markets offer towering displays of fruitcake ingredients, including container after container of brightly colored preserved fruit.  The displays are pretty… but do you know anyone who actually eats fruitcake?  Neither do I.

Now, if you’re a card carrying member of the Fruitcake Fan Club, there’s no need to send me hate mail.  🙂  I’m not alone in my thinking… all of those containers of preserved fruit are clearance priced – 75% off! – come January.

Because. Nobody. Eats. Fruitcake.

Moving right along, a 75% off sale on baking ingredients is tough for Crowded Earth Kitchen to pass up!  I couldn’t resist, and tossed a few containers into my cart.  After a bit of experimenting, I came up with this recipe for you.  Jeweled Fruit Cookies are delicious… an unexpected blend of flavors that work well together, with a pretty appearance.  Enjoy!

WIN_20150114_105127Ingredients (Makes about 100 small cookies)

1 1/2 cups room temperature butter

1 1/2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon whiskey (So much more fun than vanilla extract, don’t you think?)

4 cups flour

2 cups diced, preserved fruit (Store bought on clearance, or make your own!)

1 cup raisins

1 cup shredded coconut (or, substitute chopped nuts)

WIN_20150114_105808Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter, sugars, eggs, and whiskey in a large bowl.

Step 2) Mix baking soda, nutmeg, cloves, and flour in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, half at a time.

Step 3) Gently stir in preserved fruit, raisins, and coconut.

WIN_20150114_110524Step 4) Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

 

Roasted Tomatoes and Olives

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Tomatoes in January need a little extra care in the kitchen to amount to much of anything.  Throughout most of the United States, at least, a January tomato should be viewed with a bit of trepidation… that tomato has likely traveled a long distance, been artificially ripened by gasses pumped into a transport truck, and been sprayed with “food grade” (depending upon whom you ask) wax.  Yes, a January tomato is a sad creature, but can be coaxed to life with some effort.

Hence, this recipe for Roasted Tomatoes and Olives. I can’t promise it will transport your taste buds to your backyard garden in July, but I can promise that a few bites will make you forget that it’s, well, January.

[Psst… reblog, retweet, or share on Facebook to enter this month’s Freebie!]

Ingredients (Makes 4 side dish servings)

4 Roma tomatoes

12 Kalamata olives, pitted

2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

1 teaspoon herbes de provence (or Italian seasoning)

pinch sea salt

1 tablespoon finely grated Asiago cheese

Directions

Step 1) Wash, wash, wash those tomatoes in warm water. Then, wash them some more! Pat dry, then cut in half lengthwise.

WIN_20150101_174253Step 2) Grease a small baking dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place tomatoes in dish, cut sides up. Sprinkle with olives, herbes de provence, sea salt, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Step 3) Roast in a preheated, 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Step 4) Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with Asiago cheese.

Step 5) Return to oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese just starts to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Potato Ham Freezer Soup

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Giant pot of potato ham soup!

Over the holidays, I had a few family members over for a simple meal of ham and rolls.  Because the holidays are a busy time, I didn’t fuss with the leftovers – I simply wrapped up the ham bone and leftover ham pieces, and placed them in the freezer.

Fast forward a few weeks, and russet potatoes are $1.79 for a ten pound bag at Aldi.  No question about it, that’s the best price I’m going to find until the season for farm markets returns.  Of course I bought a bag… time to make soup!

[Psst… reblog, retweet, or share on Facebook to enter this month’s Freebie!]

WIN_20141230_155410Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 gallons of soup, or 10 quart size freezer containers)

1 ham bone (from an 8 – 10 pound half ham)

Any vegetable scraps you have on hand (clean onion peels, carrot peels, celery ends)

Water

10 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

Ham scraps, cut into bite size pieces (about 1 pound)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Shredded cheddar cheese (optional garnish)

Directions

Step 1) Place ham bone and vegetable scraps (optional) in a large crock pot and fill with water. Cover and simmer on low for two days.  We  need to coax every molecule of flavor out of that ham bone!  Be sure to keep crock pot filled with water… add more water if evaporation occurs and the water level falls below the top inch of the crock pot.

Step 2) After 2 days, turn off crock pot and allow to cool slightly. Ladle liquid in the crock pot through a sieve and into a 3-gallon stockpot (or divide between your two largest pots).  Be sure to capture all of the liquid before discarding the ham bone!

WIN_20141230_154459Step 3) Add all ten pounds of peeled, quartered potatoes and both peeled, quartered onions to the stockpot with the ham broth. Add water as needed so that the liquid level in the pot is 2 inches above the potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are very soft.  This will take about an hour, longer if the potatoes were cold.

Step 4) Allow soup to cool slightly, then puree with an immersion blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper – be careful with the salt, as there is plenty of salt in ham broth already!  Stir in ham.  To serve, sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.  To freeze, ladle soup into labeled, quart size freezer containers.

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One quart for a family lunch, one quart for Grandpa, and eight quarts for the freezer!

 

Broiled Pineapple

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Broiled Pineapple

 

This could be the easiest breakfast (or healthiest dessert) ever. Seriously.  You need about three minutes of prep time, and your pineapple will be ready to come out of the oven by the time you finish brewing a pot of coffee.  Find a pineapple on sale (I found them for $1.29 each at Aldi), and let’s get started!

[Psst… reblog, retweet, or share on Facebook to enter this month’s Freebie!]

WIN_20150101_104917Ingredients (Makes 4 filling breakfast servings or 6 dessert servings)

2 pineapples

1/4 cup pecan halves

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Step 1) Cut your pineapple into wedges. This isn’t rocket science… just cut off the top and bottom, slice off the rind in long strips, and cut around the core.  Here’s how you do it:

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Cut off the top and bottom (using an old cookie sheet instead of a cutting board is a good idea – it keeps juice from running all over your countertop!

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Next, slice off the rind.

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Finally, slice down to remove wedges of delicious pineapple from the core (standing).

Step 2) Using a paring knife, cut a shallow strip down each pineapple wedge. You’re creating a “pocket” for pecan halves. Insert two or three pecan halves into each pineapple wedge (if you want to go all crazy, add a little shredded coconut – I bet that would be tasty!).

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Pineapple wedges stuffed with pecans, ready to go under the broiler.

Step 3) Broil pineapple wedges for 6 – 10 minutes. Every broiler is a little different, so you’ll need to peek every two minutes or so to make sure your pecans don’t burn. When the pecans start to look toasted – a little darker, but NOT blackened – remove your baking sheet from the oven.

Step 4) Sprinkle pineapple wedges with ground cloves (very sparingly!) and serve immediately.

 

Smoky Chipotle Mustard

 

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Smoky Chipotle Mustard on an open face ham sandwich… delicious!

Chipotle peppers are jalapenos which have been dried by wood-smoking.  They have an earthy flavor with just enough heat to keep things interesting. Chipotles are available (and very reasonably priced) at any spice shop, along with the whole mustard seeds (also very inexpensive) we’ll need for this recipe.

For about $10 and just a bit of effort, you can make 7 or 8 half-pint jars of homemade Smoky Chipotle Mustard.  Go ahead – check out the prices on gourmet mustard jars in upscale markets, and you’ll see how your $10 investment can make some pretty fancy goodies!  Let’s get started…

[Psst… reblog, retweet, or share on Facebook to enter this month’s Freebie!]

WIN_20141227_160257Ingredients (Makes 7 or 8 half-pint jars)

1 pound whole yellow mustard seeds

2 chipotle peppers, stems removed

4 cups white vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Directions

WIN_20141227_161154Step 1) Add mustard seeds to blender and “blend” for about 15 seconds.  The seeds won’t look much different, and that’s fine.  All this step does is scratch the surface of the seeds, so that they absorb vinegar quickly.

Step 2) Bring vinegar just barely to a boil in a medium size pot. Remove from heat, and WIN_20141227_162008pour over mustard seeds in a large glass bowl.

Step 3) Chop chipotle peppers into several pieces each, and add to bowl of vinegar and mustard. Add salt to the bowl as well.

Step 4) Cover glass bowl and allow to stand for 1 – 2 hours until all vinegar has been absorbed by the mustard seeds.

Step 5) Working in small batches, puree mustard mixture in a blender. Ladle into sterilized canning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Creamy Mushroom Vodka Soup

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It is cold outside, and hot soup is just the thing to warm your bones.  This riff on classic cream of mushroom soup is lower in calories and higher in protein, yet still offers the Vitamin D and calcium found in more traditional recipes. A splash of vodka at the finish adds an undefinable yet flavorful edge to this soup. If you’d prefer to omit the vodka, add an extra dash or two of black pepper instead.

[Psst… reblog, retweet, or share on Facebook to enter this month’s Freebie!]

WIN_20141228_193835Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon ground mace (or 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg)

1/2 cup finely ground pecans

3 cups good quality chicken stock

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced

8 ounces crimini mushrooms (“baby ‘bellas”), sliced

1 cup milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper

1/4 cup vodka

pecan halves (for garnish)

WIN_20141228_193046Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in stockpot. Add flour and stir constantly over low-medium heat for several minutes to cook a blonde colored paste called a “roux.”

Step 2) Add ground pecans and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then add mushrooms, salt, and pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer gently for five minutes.

WIN_20141228_193824Step 3) Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 – 3 minutes.  Gently whisk in milk and vodka.

Step 4) Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with pecan halves. Enjoy!

January Freebie for You!

lizzyjane

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!