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Bubble Tea

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If you’ve ever dined in a sushi or hibachi restaurant, you’ve probably seen bubble tea on the menu. It’s a fun, nonalcoholic novelty beverage, often available in many flavors (most of them quite sweet) and a wide variety of colors. The main attraction, however, are the big tapioca “bubbles” floating in the tea, which can be captured and enjoyed through a wide straw.

As much as I enjoy all of the quirkiness of bubble tea, I can’t help but notice that most flavors contain an alarming amount of sugar. I also doubt that the brightly colored bubble tea available in restaurants is even the slightest bit natural. Finally, bubble tea in restaurants can be really expensive – more than twice the cost of a soft drink, and often comparable to an alcohol-based beverage. We can do better.

WIN_20150417_153619The Crowded Earth Kitchen version of bubble tea combines large tapioca beads and sweetened but naturally colored tea. The result is a lighter bubble tea with fewer artificial ingredients and a much more economical cost. Feel free to use any hot tea that you enjoy. I’m using a Chinese instant tea called Gan Mao Cha, purchased at my local Asian market. Gan Mao Cha contains WIN_20150417_155632sugar, honeysuckle, mulberry leaf, peppermint, and licorice root – it’s delicious! Sweetened green tea would be lovely, as well.

Ingredients (per serving)

1 cup of brewed tea, any variety you prefer, chilled

WIN_20150417_1600202 tablespoons large tapioca beads (about pea size when dry)

Directions

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add large tapioca beads, reduce heat to simmer, and cover the pot. After 5 minutes, tapioca beads should be even larger (like small marbles) and soft. Strain tapioca beads from water and place tapioca beads in a festive glass. Fill glass with chilled, sweetened tea and enjoy!

Spicy Slow Cooker Spare Ribs

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Spicy Slow Cooker Spare Ribs served with mashed potatoes, fresh roasted vegetables, and a slice of whole grain baguette

Slow cookers are wonderful for busy workdays. This recipe only requires a moment of time in the morning – seriously, start your pot of coffee, and you’ll be done cooking dinner before that first cup of coffee brews. Just toss your ingredients in the slow cooker, and the aroma of fork tender, savory, spicy spare ribs will greet you at the end of your workday.

When I prepare a slow cooker dish, I like to really fill the slow cooker – it’s an energy efficient way to cook, and I enjoy having leftovers to divide into lunch portions and freeze. If you don’t want to make quite so much at once, that’s fine. Just cut each of the ingredient quantities in half. The cooking time, however, remains the same.

WIN_20150416_071745Ingredients (Serves 6-8 for dinner, or 4 with leftovers)

3 pounds boneless pork spare ribs

4 cloves of garlic, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional!)

1 cup dry red wine

WIN_20150416_0726352 cups tomato-based vegetable juice

Directions: Place ingredients in a slow cooker in the order listed above. Set slow cooker to cook on “low” and allow to cook for 8 – 10 hours. If you wish, you can give everything a gentle stir after 4 or 5 hours. Do not, however, lift the cover on your slow cooker more than just that one time! After about 8 hours, your spare ribs should fall apart when poked with a fork. If they aren’t quite that tender after 8 hours, allow them to cook for another hour or two. Enjoy!

Mother’s Spice Cake

WIN_20150330_202258 [Note: This was shared as post on The Ranting Chef earlier today!] This recipe should really be called “Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s Spice Cake,” because I believe it originally belonged to my Great-Grandmother. Take a look at the recipe card below, typed on an old school typewriter… clearly, this is a very old and much loved favorite! WIN_20150407_222818 I love how this recipe, like so many old recipes, is really just a list of ingredients. In some cases, it can be very difficult to recreate a dish from ingredients alone! In this case, however, coming up with instructions and baking times was pretty straightforward. The updated set of instructions below are user-friendly and simple enough to follow with confidence. If you’re reading this post from the U.S., remember that Mothers Day is May 10th. Wouldn’t this make a fun Mothers Day cake? WIN_20150330_174809Ingredients (Makes a 9″ x 13″ cake) 1 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 1/2 cup room temperature butter 1 cup milk WIN_20150330_175239 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg WIN_20150330_2000571/2 teaspoon cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 egg yolks For the frosting: 2 egg whites WIN_20150330_2002321 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar Directions Step 1) Cream together butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup white sugar until thoroughly blended and fluffy. Add milk and egg yolks. Blend well. WIN_20150330_201244Step 2) Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. Blend slowly until batter is smooth. Step 3) Pour batter into a greased and floured 9″ x 13″ cake pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool WIN_20150330_201700thoroughly. Step 4) After cake has cooled, add 1 inch of water to the bottom of a double boiler.  Combine egg whites, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup white sugar in the top of the double boiler. NOTE: you can make your own double boiler simply by setting a metal or glass mixing bowl over the top of a medium saucepan so that the water in the saucepan is “sealed” inside (the mixing bowl you select should be perfectly round and have smooth sides in order for this to work). Make sure the water in the bottom saucepan doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Step 5) With the double boiler over medium heat, beat the egg whites and sugars at high speed using an electric mixer for seven minutes. Yes, seven minutes. This isn’t complicated, but you need to be patient! Making this frosting is a bit like making candy… we’re creating a chemical change (protein denaturation via heat and mechanical agitation, if you are interested in that sort of thing) which will turn your egg whites and sugars into an absolutely fantastic browned marshmallow frosting! If you’ve never had this frosting before, you’re in for a treat.  🙂 Step 6) The frosting will cool as soon as you remove the top of the double boiler from the heat (don’t get any water in your frosting!). Frost your cake and enjoy!

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A few cousins enjoying their Great, Great Grandma’s spice cake recipe. For me, remembering loved ones through their recipes is the very best part of cooking!

Guest Post: Betsy – Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s Spice Cake

Happy Monday, Everyone! Check out my guest post at Rantings of an Amateur Chef!

Rantings of an Amateur Chef

Today we have another guest post. Last time Betsy from Crowded Earth Kitchen was here, she was in the Diced! Dessert Challenge with her Thanksgiving Pie. Check out another great dessert from her below and her regular writing at Crowded Earth Kitchen….

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This recipe should really be called “Mother’s Mother’s Mother’s Spice Cake,” because I believe it originally belonged to my Great-Grandmother. Take a look at the recipe card below, typed on an old school typewriter… clearly, this is a very old and much loved favorite!

WIN_20150407_222818 I love how this recipe, like so many old recipes, is really just a list of ingredients. In some cases, it can be very difficult to recreate a dish from ingredients alone! In this case, however, coming up with instructions and baking times was pretty straightforward. The updated set of instructions below are user-friendly and simple enough to follow with confidence.

If you’re reading…

View original post 425 more words

Will you share a recipe?

Imagine the recipes of the world in one book, to benefit world hunger organizations!

Mission:  

Through the Global Recipe Project, Crowded Earth Kitchen aims to publish a charitable book of authentic and representative food experiences from every country in the world.  All net profit from this project will benefit world hunger organizations.  YOU, the contributors to this project and readers of this blog, will be able to select the receiving organizations!

Goals:

1) To collect at least one recipe from every country in the world;

2) To collect at least one recipe for every ten million (10,000,000) people per country.

How to Participate:

Are you willing to share a recipe with Crowded Earth Kitchen?  Simply contact us using the contact form at the bottom of this page! All recipe submissions will be entered in monthly drawings for prizes and other tokens of appreciation!  If your recipe is selected to appear in the cookbook, your name will be recognized (unless you wish to remain anonymous) as the contributor.  A few recipes will also be featured on the blog, as examples of what the book will offer!  Again, if your recipe is selected, your name will be recognized.

Country Population Total Recipes Needed: 831 Total Recipes Received: 185
1  China[8] 1,363,310,000 136  6
2  India 1,241,520,000 124  28
3  United States 317,694,000 32  13
4  Indonesia 249,866,000 25  2
5  Brazil 201,032,714 20  1
6  Pakistan 185,896,000 19  1
7  Nigeria 173,615,000 17  2
8  Bangladesh 152,518,015 15  2
9  Russia 143,700,000 14  1
10  Japan 127,180,000 13  6
11  Mexico 119,713,203 12  2
12  Philippines 99,265,300 10  4
13  Vietnam 89,708,900 9  1
14  Ethiopia 86,613,986 9  1
15  Egypt 86,115,800 9
16  Germany 80,619,000 8  8
17  Iran 77,283,000 8  1
18  Turkey 76,667,864 8  2
19  Democratic Republic of the Congo 67,514,000 7
20  Thailand 65,926,261 7  5
21  France[10] 65,844,000 7  5
22  United Kingdom 63,705,000 6
23  Italy 59,943,933 6  3
24  Burma 53,259,000 5  1
25  South Africa 52,981,991 5  1
26  South Korea 50,219,669 5  1
27  Colombia 47,503,000 5  1
28  Spain 46,609,700 5  4
29  Ukraine 45,426,200 5  2
30  Tanzania 44,928,923 4
31  Kenya 44,354,000 4
32  Argentina 41,660,096 4
33  Algeria 38,700,000 4
34  Poland 38,502,396 4  3
35  Sudan 37,964,000 4
36  Uganda 35,357,000 4
37  Canada 35,295,770 4  3
38  Iraq 34,035,000 3  1
39  Morocco 33,200,300 3  1
40  Peru 30,475,144 3
41  Uzbekistan 30,183,400 3
42  Malaysia 30,038,000 3  1
43  Saudi Arabia 29,994,272 3
44  Venezuela 28,946,101 3
45    Nepal 26,494,504 3
46  Afghanistan 25,500,100 3
47  Yemen 25,235,000 3
48  North Korea 24,895,000 2
49  Ghana 24,658,823 2
50  Mozambique 23,700,715 2
51  Australia 23,412,365 2  3
52  Taiwan[11] 23,379,129 2
53  Ivory Coast 23,202,000 2
54  Syria 21,898,000 2  3
55  Madagascar 21,263,403 2  1
56  Angola 20,609,294 2
57  Cameroon 20,386,799 2
58  Sri Lanka 20,277,597 2
59  Romania 20,121,641 2  1
60  Burkina Faso 17,322,796 2
61  Kazakhstan 17,186,000 2
62  Niger 17,129,076 2
63  Netherlands 16,841,900 2  3
64  Malawi 16,363,000 2
65  Chile 16,341,929 2  2
66  Guatemala 15,806,675 2
67  Ecuador 15,697,800 2  2
68  Mali 15,302,000 2  1
69  Cambodia 15,135,000 2  1
70  Zambia 14,580,290 1  1
71  Senegal 13,567,338 1
72  Zimbabwe 12,973,808 1
73  Chad 12,825,000 1  1
74  South Sudan 11,296,000 1
75  Cuba 11,167,325 1  2
76  Belgium 11,132,269 1
77  Tunisia 10,886,500 1
78  Guinea 10,824,200 1
79  Greece 10,815,197 1  6
80  Rwanda 10,537,222 1
81  Czech Republic 10,513,800 1  2
82  Somalia[12] 10,496,000 1
83  Portugal 10,487,289 1
84  Haiti 10,413,211 1
85  Benin 10,323,000 1
86  Burundi 10,163,000 1
87  Bolivia 10,027,254 1
88  Hungary 9,906,000 1  4
89  Sweden 9,651,531 1  4
90  Azerbaijan 9,477,100 1
91  Belarus 9,468,100 1
92  Dominican Republic 9,445,281 1
93  Honduras 8,555,072 1
94  Austria 8,504,850 1  2
95  United Arab Emirates 8,264,070 1
96  Tajikistan 8,160,000 1
97  Israel 8,146,300 1  3
98   Switzerland 8,112,200 1
99  Papua New Guinea 7,398,500 1
100  Bulgaria 7,282,041 1
101  Hong Kong (China) 7,219,700 1  1
102  Serbia[13] 7,181,505 1  1
103  Paraguay 6,783,374 1
104  Laos 6,580,800 1  1
105  Jordan 6,558,100 1  1
106  El Salvador 6,340,000 1  1
107  Eritrea 6,333,000 1
108  Libya 6,202,000 1  1
109  Togo 6,191,155 1
110  Sierra Leone 6,190,280 1
111  Nicaragua 6,071,045 1
112  Kyrgyzstan 5,663,133 1
113  Denmark 5,627,235 1  2
114  Finland 5,452,821 1  1
115  Slovakia 5,415,949 1  2
116  Singapore 5,399,200 1
117  Turkmenistan 5,240,000 1
118  Norway 5,109,056 1  3
119  Lebanon 4,822,000 1  1
120  Costa Rica 4,667,096 1
121  Central African Republic 4,616,000 1
122  Ireland 4,593,100 1  3
123  New Zealand 4,517,950 1  6
124  Georgia[14] 4,483,800 1
125  Republic of the Congo 4,448,000 1
126  Palestine[15] 4,420,549 1
127  Liberia 4,294,000 1
128  Croatia 4,290,612 1
129  Oman 3,957,000 1
130  Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,791,622 1
131  Puerto Rico (USA) 3,615,086 1
132  Moldova[16] 3,559,500 1
133  Mauritania 3,461,041 1
134  Panama 3,405,813 1
135  Uruguay 3,286,314 1
136  Kuwait 3,065,850 1
137  Armenia 3,017,400 1 2
138  Lithuania 2,941,953 1
139  Mongolia 2,931,300 1
140  Albania 2,821,977 1
141  Jamaica 2,711,476 1  2
142  Namibia 2,113,077 1
143  Lesotho 2,074,000 1
144  Macedonia 2,062,294 1
145  Slovenia 2,061,941 1
146  Qatar 2,045,239 1
147  Botswana 2,024,904 1
148  Latvia 2,003,900 1
149  Gambia 1,849,000 1
150  Kosovo 1,815,606 1
151  Guinea-Bissau 1,704,000 1
152  Gabon 1,672,000 1
153  Equatorial Guinea 1,622,000 1
154  Trinidad and Tobago 1,328,019 1  1
155  Estonia 1,311,870 1
156  Mauritius 1,257,900 1
157  Swaziland 1,250,000 1
158  Bahrain 1,234,571 1
159  Timor-Leste 1,066,409 1
160  Djibouti 873,000 1
161  Cyprus[17] 865,878 1
162  Fiji 858,038 1
163  Réunion (France) 840,974 1
164  Guyana 784,894 1
165  Bhutan 745,130 1
166  Comoros 743,798 1
167  Montenegro 620,029 1
168  Macau (China) 598,200 1
169  Solomon Islands 581,344 1
170  Western Sahara[18] 567,000 1
171  Luxembourg 537,000 1
172  Suriname 534,189 1
173  Cape Verde 491,875 1
174  Malta 416,055 1  1
175  Guadeloupe (France) 405,739 1
176  Brunei 393,162 1
177  Martinique (France) 392,291 1
178  Bahamas 351,461 1
179  Belize 349,728 1
180  Iceland 325,671 1
181  Maldives 317,280 1
182  Barbados 285,000 1
183  French Polynesia (France) 268,270 1
184  Vanuatu 264,652 1
185  New Caledonia (France) 258,958 1
186  French Guiana (France) 237,549 1
187  Mayotte (France) 212,645 1
188  Samoa 187,820 1
189  São Tomé and Príncipe 187,356 1
190  Saint Lucia 180,000 1
191  Guam (USA) 159,358 1
192  Curaçao (Netherlands) 150,563 1
193  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 109,000 1
194  Kiribati 106,461 1
195  United States Virgin Islands (USA) 106,405 1
196  Grenada 103,328 1
197  Tonga 103,036 1
198  Aruba (Netherlands) 101,484 1
199  Federated States of Micronesia 101,351 1
200  Jersey (UK) 99,000 1
201  Seychelles 90,945 1
202  Antigua and Barbuda 86,295 1
203  Isle of Man (UK) 84,497 1
204  Andorra 76,098 1
205  Dominica 71,293 1
206  Bermuda (UK) 64,237 1
207  Guernsey (UK) 63,085 1
208  Greenland (Denmark) 56,483 1
209  Marshall Islands 56,086 1
210  American Samoa (USA) 55,519 1
211  Cayman Islands (UK) 55,456 1
212  Saint Kitts and Nevis 54,000 1
213  Northern Mariana Islands (USA) 53,883 1
214  Faroe Islands (Denmark) 48,244 1
215  Sint Maarten (Netherlands) 37,429 1
216  Liechtenstein 37,132 1
217  Saint Martin (France) 36,979 1
218  Monaco 36,136 1
219  San Marino 33,540 1
220  Turks and Caicos Islands (UK) 31,458 1
221  Gibraltar (UK) 30,001 1
222  British Virgin Islands (UK) 29,537 1
223  Åland Islands (Finland) 28,502 1
224  Caribbean Netherlands (Netherlands) 23,296 1
225  Palau 20,901 1
226  Cook Islands (NZ) 14,974 1
227  Anguilla (UK) 13,452 1
228  Wallis and Futuna (France) 13,135 1
229  Tuvalu 11,323 1
230  Nauru 9,945 1
231  Saint Barthélemy (France) 8,938 1
232  Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France) 6,081 1
233  Montserrat (UK) 4,922 1
234  Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (UK) 4,000 1
235  Svalbard and Jan Mayen (Norway) 2,655 1
236  Falkland Islands (UK) 2,563 1
237  Norfolk Island (Australia) 2,302 1
238  Christmas Island (Australia) 2,072 1
239  Niue (NZ) 1,613 1
240  Tokelau (NZ) 1,411 1
241   Vatican City 839 1
242  Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia) 596 1
243  Pitcairn Islands (UK) 56 1
Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population

Crunchy Baked Opo

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Opo?

What in the world is Opo?

This, friends, is Opo:
WIN_20150417_153559I found this large, pale green curiosity at my local Asian market, and had absolutely no idea what it was or how to prepare it… which of course meant that it needed a place of honor in my shopping basket! I brought it home, cut it in half, and could see that it’s obviously some sort of squash:
WIN_20150417_181954It looks and feels a bit like zucchini, but I was surprised to discover that it tastes like a cucumber! I don’t mean those soulless winter cucumbers at the supermarket… Opo tastes like the most wonderful, garden fresh cucumber tasted right off the vine in mid-July. I was charmed.

Because I loved the crunch and flavor of Opo right away, I decided to prepare a dish that would highlight the crunch and not overwhelm the fresh taste. This dish is super easy. Track down an Opo and give it a try!

Ingredients (Makes 4 side dish servings)

4 cups thin sliced Opo (no need to peel or seed, just wash the whole Opo and slice it)

2 tablespoons melted butter (not margarine)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

WIN_20150417_182550Directions

Step 1) Grease a baking dish (I used a pie dish) with the wrapper from a stick of butter. Arrange sliced Opo in baking dish.

Step 2) Brush sliced Opo with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika and salt.

Step 3) Sprinkle cornmeal over sliced Opo. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over the cornmeal.

Step 4) Top the cornmeal with grated parmesan. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until parmesan is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Rainbow Shortcake

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Shortcake is my very favorite springtime dessert. Berries begin to peek out from among the sea of apples and pears at the market (in my area, anyway), and those berries deserve to be showcased! Rainbow Shortcake doesn’t force you to select one fruit – not when there are so many wonderful options this time of year. By including several fruits with different colors and flavor profiles, you end up with a dish that is both beautiful and delicious while remaining remarkably simple to prepare.

Rainbow shortcake does not require any expensive or unusual ingredients, and feeds a crowd. This is a GREAT dish to prepare for a backyard visit with a few friends. Mix up a pitcher of lemonade or sangria, and you’ve got yourself a springtime party.

WIN_20150415_174613Ingredients (Makes 10 shortcakes)

2 cups flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup cold butter (not margarine)

WIN_20150415_1754281 egg

2/3 cup milk

1 pint whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Approximately 4 cups of diced, mixed fresh fruit (I used 1 banana, 1 kiwi, 1 cup of WIN_20150415_181717blueberries, and 1 cup of strawberries)

Directions

Step 1) Using a pastry cutter or two forks held together in one hand, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter in a large bowl. Use the pastry cutter or forks to cut through the butter until the mixture resembles little crumbs. Be patient – this isn’t difficult, but it takes a few minutes.

Step 2) Add egg and milk to the butter mixture and stir until just combined.

Step 3) Drop the shortcake mixture in ten “piles” onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I highly recommend parchment paper for this recipe. Your shortcakes will spread a bit when they bake, so be sure to leave a few inches between piles. Why do I keep saying “piles?” I want you to make little mountains on your baking sheet – don’t flatten them! We’re making shortcakes, not cookies.

Step 4) Bake your shortcakes in a preheated, 425 degree oven for 16 minutes or until golden brown. Place your shortcakes on a cooling rack.

Step 5) When shortcakes have cooled completely, slice them in half as if you were slicing rolls to make sandwiches.

Step 6) In a medium size, scrupulously clean bowl, beat whipping cream and powdered sugar using the highest speed on your electric mixer for 2 or 3 minutes, until you have fluffy whipped cream.

Step 7) Assemble your shortcakes immediately before serving. Place a heaping tablespoon of whipped cream and a few pieces of fruit inside of each sliced shortcake. Top each shortcake with more whipped cream and more fruit. Enjoy!

“I Survived My Workout” Tropical Smoothie

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Recently, I decided to add running to my regular but casual workout rotation. I hit the gym a few times each week, but I’m not trying out for the Olympics here, folks. You’ll find me among the masses of regular people just trying to stay reasonably healthy by hoisting myself onto an elliptical machine or a stationary bike and dutifully but ungracefully elevating my heart rate.

But running?

I hate running.

I’m giving it a try because I’m at a fitness plateau and running seems like an obvious way to move forward. If there’s any truth to the “no pain, no gain” sentiment, well, running will DEFINITELY work!

While I’m running, reminding myself that I’m not actually going to die (it just feels that way), it helps to think of a healthy snack I can prepare when I’m finished. I made this Tropical Smoothie today, and it was delicious! You’ll notice that the recipe calls for just a bit of coconut milk (yum). Here’s a tip: if you open a can of coconut milk for this recipe, freeze what’s left in the can by pouring it into an ice cube tray. The next time you make this recipe, just add one ice cube of coconut milk. So easy!

WIN_20150415_110528Ingredients (Makes 1 refreshing smoothie)

1/2 banana, sliced

3 tablespoons coconut milk

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 generous tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

3 ice cubes

3/4 cup cold water

Directions: Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Pumpkin Cornbread

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Everyone in my home enjoys cornbread, but my Pickle in the Middle loves cornbread. We have a favorite restaurant which serves cornbread as a complimentary appetizer, and we need to reign the child in after two pieces to leave room for the rest of the meal!

Pickle in the Middle says this recipe for Pumpkin Cornbread is the BEST because “it doesn’t even need honey.” In childspeak, this means that the pumpkin cornbread is pleasantly sweet and not too dry (as cornbread can sometimes be). It really is delicious all on it’s own. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

WIN_20150414_182315Ingredients (Makes a 9″ pie dish of pumpkin cornbread)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned, either works fine)

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

WIN_20150414_1833193 tablespoons vegetable oil

3/4 cup ground yellow cornmeal

1 1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

WIN_20150414_185802Directions

Step 1) Grease a 9″ deep dish pie dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2) In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together pumpkin, egg, milk, and oil until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix gently with a fork. Don’t get carried away! Over-mixing will make your pumpkin cornbread less tender.

Step 3) Transfer batter to the pie dish and smooth with a spatula. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Tilapia with Peach Avocado Salsa

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Tilapia is a popular dinner ingredient here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Like most white fish, tilapia is a versatile, mild flavored, low fat protein source. Tilapia is also sustainable and affordable ($5.49 for a two pound package of filets at, you guessed it, Aldi). Today we’re enjoying tilapia with a colorful and delicious peach avocado salsa, just in time for spring.

If you can’t find fresh peaches yet, don’t worry – frozen sliced peaches actually work very well in this salsa. With just a few ingredients, you can prepare this dish in less than 15 minutes. Ready… set… GO!

WIN_20150414_185611Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 tilapia filets, thawed if previously frozen

1 avocado, diced

1 cup peeled, diced peaches

1 teaspoon finely diced onion

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

mild chili powder to garnish

Directions

Step 1) Grease a baking dish lightly with coconut oil. Place tilapia filets on greased baking dish and sprinkle lightly with chili powder. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Step 2) While fish is baking, gently toss together the avocado, peaches, onion, and lemon juice. Sprinkle lightly with chili powder.

Step 3) Top each baked fish filet with a spoonful of peach avocado salsa. Done!

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Taro Root Dessert Soup

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Desserts made with a combination of taro root and coconut milk are popular in parts of China and Hong Kong, and have been on my wish list of foods to try for a while. When one of my children selected taro root as a new food to try, dessert soup came to my mind right away.

This recipe took some tinkering to get just right because it contains tapioca.  For me, tapioca can be a little finicky. If I’m going to have imperfect tapioca, I’d rather it be a tad undercooked than even a speck overcooked. If you follow these directions, your tapioca (and your completed dessert soup) should turn out just fine!

WIN_20150410_174201Ingredients (Serves 4)

1/2 cup fresh taro root, peeled and diced

1/2 cup small pearl tapioca

1/2 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons sugar

lemon peel and/or raspberries for garnish (optional)

Directions

Step 1) Soak tapioca in cold water for 2 hours, then drain.

Step 2) Transfer tapioca to a saucepan and add water so that the water level is about 1 inch above the tapioca. Cook over a low setting (do NOT boil) for 15 minutes. Drain off excess liquid.

WIN_20150410_174745Step 3) While tapioca is cooking, add diced taro root to its own, separate saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the taro root is soft. The taro root should be done about the same time as the tapioca.

Step 4) Drain liquid from the cooked taro root. Mash the taro root with a fork (it doesn’t have to be completely uniform).

Step 5) Add coconut milk and sugar to the mashed taro root. Blend well. Gently stir in the cooked tapioca. This dessert soup may be enjoyed immediately as a warm soup, or refrigerated and served later as a cold soup. It’s a matter of personal preference. The soup will thicken to a pudding consistency when refrigerated.

Springtime Gazpacho

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Springtime tends to make vegetable lovers giddy with excitement. Unfortunately, it also makes us impatient, as the fresh, ripe flavors we crave become  s  l  o  w  l  y   available. Right now, the zucchini at the market (not yet from my garden) looks fresh and delicious. Cucumbers and peppers aren’t half bad right now, either.

But those supermarket tomatoes?

Sigh.

Don’t even bother with springtime tomatoes. I think they’re just little cardboard orbs disguised as tomatoes.

So, what’s a vegetable lover to do? Cheat. Relax, I’m not telling you to cheat on your taxes or cheat on your calculus exam. We’re going to cheat by avoiding fresh tomatoes altogether, even in a dish which ordinarily features fresh tomatoes quite prominently.

How are we going to cheat? We’re going to use salsa and vegetable juice. Stay with me for a minute.

Salsa, whether home canned or store bought, is often a superior alternative to out of season tomatoes. The blend of tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices offers a whole lot more flavor than whatever was picked green and trucked up from far away, gassed along the way to artificially force a red color (without doing a darn thing for flavor). Likewise, vegetable juice forms a perfect – and perfectly obvious – base for a simple gazpacho. If you don’t believe me, try this recipe. If I’m wrong, post a comment below!

WIN_20150408_091740Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 small zucchini, peeled and chopped

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped (save one slice unpeeled for garnish later)

1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped (set aside a small piece for garnish later)

1 red pepper, seeded and chopped (set aside a small piece for garnish, later)

1 clove fresh garlic, diced

1 cup salsa

2 cups tomato-based vegetable juice (such as V-8)

Directions

Add all ingredients except garnish to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve well chilled and sprinkled with colorful diced vegetables. If you’d like, add a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

Chinese Barbecue Chicken

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This post offers an idea rather than a recipe… a simple way of jazzing up plain old chicken. Take a stroll through a grocery store which specializes in food items from a specific part of the world, and keep an eye out for items that you can use to spruce up old favorites. That interesting chimichurri you spotted at the South American market? Try it on a hamburger instead of ketchup or mustard. The plum sauce you found at the Asian grocery store? Give it a whirl on your favorite meatloaf recipe. Today, I’m having fun with a jar of Chinese barbecue sauce.

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Chinese barbecue sauce is very, very different from any American-style barbecue sauce I’ve ever tasted. While the ingredients vary from one brand to the next, the jar I selected contains fermented soybean paste. This gives the barbecue sauce a very salty, very earthy flavor – overall, the taste is strong and powerful. A little goes a long way… don’t get carried away. You can always add more sauce to whatever your preparing later!

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To create the meal shown at the top of this post, I started with one pound of chicken tenderloin strips (any boneless chicken will work just the same). I placed the chicken in a greased pan and baked it for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. After removing the chicken from the oven, I shredded the chicken using two forks. Finally, I stirred in about 1 cup of Chinese barbecue sauce, and served the coated chicken over cooked jasmine rice. It was delicious. I hope you give this, or something similar, a try. If you find a new use for an unfamiliar condiment, please post a comment below. I’d love to hear about it!

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