Pink Champagne Party Punch

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You don’t need a great big special occasion for this – why not invite a few girlfriends over on a sunny day and chat all afternoon over a bowl of Pink Champagne Party Punch? If you don’t have a punch bowl, get creative – use a big glass mixing bowl, a big glass vase, or anything else that catches your eye. Likewise, you can make decorative ice using an ice mold, a bundt cake pan, or just use a regular ice cube tray with pieces of fruit added to the individual ice cube compartments. There’s no need to be precious about it… this is supposed to be FUN, not complicated.

Ingredients (Makes about 3 liters)

1 cup of assorted fruit (small berries and thin slices of citrus fruit work well)

1 liter of cranberry-raspberry juice

1 liter of ginger ale

1 bottle (750 mL) of champagne or sparkling wine

small container of raspberry sherbet

WIN_20150327_082303Directions

Step 1) One day before serving, make your decorative ice. Place one layer of fruit in the bottom of your bundt pan, ice mold, or ice cube tray. Add 1/2 inch of water (that’s all!) and freeze. A few hours later, add another layer of fruit and another 1/2 inch of water. Once THAT freezes, you can add as much WIN_20150327_100221water (or juice) as you’d like. Keep frozen until serving time.

Step 2) Just before serving, remove ice from the freezer and set bottom in warm water for about 10 seconds… not too long! Just add an inch or so of warm water to the bottom of your kitchen sink. Then, carefully life out the ice and place it in your punch bowl.

Step 3) Add juice and soda to punch bowl. Top with a few tablespoons of raspberry sherbet. Finally, pour champagne over the top of everything and watch it FIZZ! Serve immediately.

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Jelly Bean Brittle

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Hop. Hop. Hippidy Hop. That bunny is heading our way, and wouldn’t it be nice if he arrived with a basket of homemade Easter candy? Jelly Bean Brittle is awesome for so many reasons… it’s super easy (Can you boil water? That’s about the only skill you need!), doesn’t require any expensive ingredients, and unlike peanut brittle, is completely free of common allergens. This recipe makes a great big pan (about 2 1/2 pounds’ worth) – perfect for an office or a classroom!

The only special item you will need is a candy thermometer. Now, don’t panic – a candy thermometer looks like any other thermometer, and just clips right onto your pot. All you need to do is READ it, and if you are reading this blog post, you’ve got that skill locked. Here is a link to the simple candy thermometer that I use:

Taylor Classic Line Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer

It’s less than $6, and if you order it today you’ll be able to make Jelly Bean Brittle before Easter. You’re welcome. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150329_131938Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 pounds)

1 pound bag of mini jelly beans

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

WIN_20150329_1329121/4 cup butter (not margarine)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (no lumps!)

Directions

Step 1) Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a big, old pot. The tip of the thermometer should not be touching the WIN_20150329_132803bottom of the pot. Add sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat slightly (low-medium) and allow to continue boiling until the temperature gauge on your candy thermometer reaches the line WIN_20150329_134459labeled “Hard Crack” or 295 degrees. Be patient – this will take 20 – 30 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.

Step 3) While your mixture boils, prepare your pan. First, cover your largest baking pan with aluminum foil; don’t forget to cover the sides. Next, grease the aluminum foil with the wrapper from a stick of butter. Then, evenly distribute jelly beans on the WIN_20150329_134509foil.

Step 4) When your boiling mixture reaches the Hard Crack stage, turn off the heat and sprinkle baking soda into the pot. STIR QUICKLY! A chemical reaction will take place, causing the boiling mixture to foam and froth. This is normal – and exciting!

Step 5) After stirring, pour mixture over jelly WIN_20150329_134600beans. Working quickly, spread mixture evenly over the entire pan.

Step 6) After about 10 minutes, your jelly bean brittle will be ready to break apart into bite size pieces. Store in an airtight container to keep nice and fresh!

PS – About that pot… just add a drop of dish soap and fill with BOILING water. It’ll come clean in seconds.  😉

Banana Boats

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Banana Boats make fun desserts and festive brunch items. They’re easy enough for children to assemble (as long as a grown-up supervises the broiler). As far as both nutrition and taste are concerned, Banana Boats offer a lot of bang for your buck. The combination of bananas and peanut butter has long been popular as a child-friendly snack, and the tiny amounts of mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows in this recipe add only about 30 calories per Boat. Enjoy this guilt-free treat!

WIN_20150327_071114Ingredients (for each Banana Boat)

1 large, ripe banana

1 tablespoon all-natural peanut butter

1 teaspoon mini chocolate chips

8 mini marshmallows

WIN_20150327_071351Directions

Step 1) Slice through the length of each banana as shown, leaving the back of the peel intact.

Step 2) Set bananas in a baking pan lined with a roasting rack, to keep the bananas from tipping over.

WIN_20150327_071955Step 3) Spread peanut butter inside of each banana. Top with mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.

Step 4) Broil under a low broiler for 1 or 2 minutes, until marshmallows turn golden brown. Watch constantly, as marshmallows will go from golden to burned very quickly!

Step 5) Enjoy immediately.

Almost Kimchi

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It all began with a rather forlorn looking cabbage lurking grumpily in my refrigerator.

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Not a very inspiring image, is it? Undeterred, I looked around for something to jazz up this healthy veggie. Aha! Chili paste! Everything tastes better with chili paste!

Even.

Cabbage.

I’m calling this “Almost Kimchi” because this isn’t an authentic Korean recipe. This is simply a nod toward the spicy/pungent, fermented cabbage blend that is ubiquitous to Korean cuisine. True kimchi has a much, much stronger flavor profile and can be a bit of an acquired taste for those unfamiliar with Korean food. Try this recipe first. If you like it – and I think you will – go ahead and try the real deal in a Korean restaurant. Trying new foods is a delightful adventure – enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

1 medium head of cabbage, sliced into thin strips

2 tablespoons salt

1/2 cup of daikon, sliced into matchsticks (or substitute sliced red radishes)

1/2 cup of carrot, sliced into matchsticks

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced

1 cup of chili vinegar

1 tablespoon chili paste, such as nam prik pao

1/4 cup fish sauce (or substitute 2 tablespoons soy sauce)

WIN_20150326_092758Directions

Step 1) Place sliced cabbage in a large strainer and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for at least an hour or for as long as overnight. This will cause the cabbage to give up some of its water.

Step 2) Rinse the salt off of the cabbage and pat dry. Don’t be afraid to really give the cabbage a squeeze!

WIN_20150326_093854Step 3) Combine all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend until well combined. Gently mix in cabbage.

Step 4) Transfer cabbage mixture into 2, quart size mason jars (using a wide mouth funnel is helpful, but not essential). Cover jars and place in the refrigerator.

Step 5) After about 24 hours, you will notice that the jars appear less full. This is normal, and is one indication that fermentation is beginning to occur. Quickly open and reclose the jars, to let any gasses escape.  Wait about three more days, and your Almost Kimchi will be at its most delicious!

Sriracha “Fried” Oysters

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Sriracha “Fried” Oysters are low in fat!

The next time you’re at the supermarket, take a closer look among the dozens of brands of canned tuna, and keep an eye out for this:

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You’ve never purchased a can of oysters? You’re not alone, and that’s a shame. I get it, those low cost cans of oysters aren’t as sexy as the overpriced, restaurant peddled raw oysters on a half shell, but they’re just as nutritious and mineral rich! A one cup serving of canned oysters contains a whopping 17 grams of protein and a hearty dose of iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins, all for about 170 calories and 6 grams of fat. What are you waiting for?

This recipe is dirt cheap and stone simple. You need exactly three ingredients, and oil is NOT one of them. Oysters contain so much moisture that we can get away with dry frying – they go right on a hot, nonstick pan without any added fats or oils at all. Woo Hoo! Throwing a party? Double or triple this recipe for a hot, fast, cheap snack that is actually GOOD FOR YOU. Don’t worry, I won’t tell if you won’t tell.

WIN_20150326_101602 - CopyIngredients (Makes 12 – 15 bite size snacks)

8 oz can of whole oysters

1/4 cup sriracha hot sauce

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

Directions

WIN_20150326_102243 - CopyStep 1) Drain can of oysters.

Step 2) Pour sriracha sauce onto a small plate and top with oysters. Gently turn oysters over to coat with sriracha.

Step 3) Pour cornmeal onto a second, small plate. Gently transfer oysters to cornmeal and turn to coat.

Step 4) Place a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place oysters on hot skillet and “fry” for approximately 2 minutes per side, or until cornmeal begins to brown. Serve immediately.

Spicy Yam and Coconut Soup

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Spicy Yam and Coconut Soup

Springtime… is it a myth? Will winter weather ever end? Here in my chilly neck of the woods, I am starting to wonder! One thing is certain… I am tired of being cold. Spicy Yam and Coconut Soup is one of those dishes with the ability to warm you up from the inside out. It’s a perfect meal to enjoy while we wait… and wait… for warm and sunny weather to arrive.

WIN_20150325_174311Ingredients (Makes 4 main dish servings)

4 cups good quality pork stock (substitute chicken broth for a lighter soup, or vegetable broth for vegan soup)

2 large or 3 small red yams, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup white onion, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon chili paste such as nam prik pao (use more or less depending upon your tolerance for heat)

1 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon all-natural peanut butter (optional, but adds a nice earthy element to this soup)

WIN_20150325_184515Directions

Step 1) Simmer yams and onion in pork stock for 20 minutes or until yams are very tender. Remove from heat.

Step 2) Puree yams, onion, and pork stock with an immersion blender. Add chili paste, coconut milk, and peanut butter. Blend well.

Step 3) Ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with thinly sliced greens (bok choy or any other leafy green) and small dots of chili paste.

Step 4) Serve immediately and enjoy while dreaming of sunshine.

Juices and Smoothies Galore!

I recently received a free review copy of Christine Bailey’s Supercharged Juice & Smoothie Recipes: Your Ultra-Healthy Plan for Weight-Loss, Detox, Beauty and More Using Green Vegetables, Powders and Super-Supplements

Supercharged

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Supercharged is an interesting read. Christine Bailey devotes the first 25 pages of her book to outlining and explaining the nutritional contexts behind her recipes. If you happen to own a juicer, you will find plenty of recipes to keep you busy and well nourished for a long time! I don’t own a juicer, so my blender and I moved right along to the smoothies in the second half of the book.
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Folks concerned about allergens will be happy to see convenient symbols pointing readers toward recipes that are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, nut free, seed free, citrus free, and suitable for vegans. Some readers might enjoy Bailey’s more subjective categories including weight loss, cleansing, radiance, energy, immune boost, and brain health and stress. Crowded Earth Kitchen doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in these latter, subjective categories, believing instead that simply enjoying a wide variety of fresh, whole foods is the key to optimum health. But hey, if it puts a little spring in your step to sip a glass of something labeled “cleansing” or “radiant,” who am I to judge?

I enjoyed the Wake-Up Berry Latte, featured on page 118 of Supercharged. Made from yerba mate tea, almond milk, maqui berry powder, frozen mixed berries, and cinnamon, I thought this smoothie was a delicious and low calorie way to start my day.

Don’t have any maqui berry powder handy? Yes… that’s the only real drawback I found reading Supercharged Juice & Smoothie Recipes: Your Ultra-Healthy Plan for Weight-Loss, Detox, Beauty and More Using Green Vegetables, Powders and Super-Supplements. The recipes contained within the book do contain many specialty ingredients, from a wide variety of berry and vegetable powders to ingredients such as aloe vera juice, flaxseed oil, water kefir, and shelled hemp seeds. Readers should plan on a trip to a health food store (or a bit of online shopping) before making use of this book.

Happy Juicing! Be Well!