Candy Corn Campfires

WIN_20150926_153844These adorable treats are lightning fast to prepare – perfect for your next backyard bonfire or just a cozy evening by the fireplace. Happy Halloween!

WIN_20150926_140948Ingredients

1 bag of thin pretzel sticks

1 bag of butterscotch baking chips

1 small bag of candy corn

Directions

WIN_20150926_140918Melt 1/2 cup of butterscotch chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until chips are fully melted. Arrange six pretzel sticks per campfire as shown, “gluing” pairs of pretzel sticks together using a bit of the melted butterscotch. Allow assembled pretzel sticks to set for a few minutes, giving the butterscotch a chance to harden. Finally, use melted butterscotch to glue two or three candy corn “flames” to each campfire. Store in an airtight container.

Halloween Apple Treats

WIN_20150919_212839

A reasonably healthy Halloween treat… imagine! Children (and grown-ups) will love these easy-to-make apple treats. If you are still pondering whether or not to invest in a food dehydrator, what are you waiting for? You’ll recoup the cost after just a few batches of economical, homemade dried fruit. Here’s a link to a dehydrator that costs only $35 with free shipping! You’re welcome.

Ronco FD1005WHGEN 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

WIN_20150918_144751Ingredients (Makes about 1 quart of dried fruit)

12 medium size apples (Cortland apples work well)

1 cup cold water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

WIN_20150918_1455091 teaspoon of orange colored sugar (or use orange Jello)

1/4 teaspoon of black colored sugar

Directions

Step 1) Peel and core apples. Slice thin (no thicker than 1/4 inch).

WIN_20150918_145454Step 2) As you slice each apple, place the slices in a bowl with the cold water and lemon juice. Simply submerge the apple slices to prevent browning.

Step 3) Arrange apple slices on food dehydrator trays. It’s OK if the apple slices touch each other just a bit, but they should be in a single layer (not overlapping).

Step 4) Sprinkle the apple slices LIGHTLY with colored sugar. Don’t get carried away! Almost immediately, the color will begin to spread out. The color will continue to deepen as the apple slices dry.

Step 4) Plug in your food dehydrator and allow apples to dry for 12 hours (they may require a bit longer if your apple slices are thick). Apple slices will snap in half easily when they are completely dry.

Step 5) Store in zip-lock snack bags or other airtight container. Apple slices that are completely dry and stored in an airtight container will stay fresh for many months. Good luck keeping them around that long… here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, my little Half-Pint ferrets out dried apple slices from all of my hiding places and devours them on the sly! It’s hard to be annoyed when children delight in such a healthy treat. ¬†ūüôā

Enjoy!

Vanilla Spiced Pears

WIN_20150914_134748Vanilla Spiced Pears are¬†wonderful when warmed for breakfast or served with a slice of pound cake for dessert. Pretty mason jars of these pears make lovely hostess gifts for the holiday season, as well! [If you’re looking for a hostess gift with a decidedly adult flair, check out this similar recipe for Brandied Pears.]

Money saving tip: If you’re buying pears at an orchard or farm stand, ask for “seconds.” Often, growers will only display their perfectly unblemished (No. 1) fruit for sale. Fruit which is still perfectly good for canning but has tiny cosmetic defects is considered No. 2 grade, and is often¬†sold at steep discounts to customers who ask. During a recent orchard visit, I was able to buy pear seconds for half the price of unblemished pears, and the seconds had barely any defects at all (see photo).

WIN_20150914_124111Ingredients (Makes 7 quarts)

27 – 30 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thick

4 cups sugar

*1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon whole allspice

1/2 cup lemon juice

8 cups water

*Don’t skimp on the real vanilla bean – vanilla extract is not a good substitute here. You can order vanilla beans to be delivered right to your door, if you wish: Grade A Premium Gourmet Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans , Fresh Prime, Approximatelly 17 Centimeters (Pack of 10)

WIN_20150914_123917Directions

Step 1) Bring sugar vanilla bean, cloves, allspice, lemon juice, and water to a boil in a large stockpot. Boil gently, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

Step 2) Reduce heat to simmer. Add pear slices and simmer for two minutes.

WIN_20150914_132059Step 3) Ladle pears into sterilized quart size canning jars. Make sure pears are covered with the vanilla spiced syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Don’t be afraid to really pack the pear slices into the jars!

Step 4) Remove air bubbles from the jars by sliding a butter knife or canning tool along the inside of each jar. Cover jars with lids and rims. Process jars in a boiling water canning bath for 20 minutes.

Southern Style Chow Chow

WIN_20150828_185240Chow chow?

I have no idea where the name originated – catchy though, isn’t it? There are many, many variations on chow chow, which is basically a corn chutney made from the bits and scraps of whatever is left in a garden before the first freeze, preserved in a sweet brine. This batch of chow chow is made from corn, Poblano peppers, onion, and green beans because that’s what I had on hand. If you have green tomatoes, asparagus, or cauliflower to use, those vegetables also work well. As long as your vegetables “add up” to 18 cups, you can follow the brine recipe as shown below. Be creative with your combinations of corn and other veggies, and have fun!

If you’re looking for serving suggestions, chow chow (like many forms of chutney) is often served over beans and rice.

WIN_20150828_174447Ingredients (Makes 10 pints)

18 cups assorted garden vegetables, such as:

  • 6 cups diced Poblano pepper
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 6 cups green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces

Brine:

4 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground mustard powder

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

WIN_20150828_175528Directions

Step 1) Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Step 2) Reduce brine to simmer, and add all 18 cups of vegetables. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3) Ladle chow chow mixture into sterilized, pint size canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a canning tool or butter knife to remove air bubbles. Top jars with lids and rims, and process in a boiling water canning bath for 10 minutes.

“But I don’t have a canning pot!”

Sigh. You still don’t have a canning pot? They’re only around $20, my friend, and will save you tons of money! Here’s a link to get you started:¬†Granite Ware 0707-1 Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack, 21.5-Quart, Black

Happy canning!

Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Muffins

WIN_20150910_154140I enjoy pumpkin spice treats at my local green-awning’ed coffee shop as much as the next person, but Holy Falling Leaves, that habit gets expensive! This recipe will help you reign in your spending while still relishing a pumpkin spice goodie. ūüėČ The perfect grown-up treat¬†for autumn, Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Muffins pair beautifully with your morning cup of coffee at home. The low-fat ricotta adds richness and protein, while the abundance of spices allows us to keep the sugar content pretty low. Try a batch of Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Muffins today, and let me know what you think!

WIN_20150910_145123Ingredients (Makes 12 large muffins or 36 bite-size mini muffins)

1 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned pumpkin will work)

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese (or substitute quark)

1 egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace (or substitute 1/4 cup nutmeg)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

WIN_20150910_145919Directions

Step 1) Blend together pumpkin puree, ricotta, egg, and oil until smooth. Add sugar and spices. Mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to pumpkin mixture. Mix well.

Step 3) Spoon batter into muffin liners or greased muffin tins – liners or tins should be 2/3 full. Sprinkle tops with a little bit of sugar (optional).

Step 4) Bake muffins in a preheated 400 degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a pumpkin muffin comes out clean. Full size muffins will require about 18 minutes baking time. Mini muffins will require 10 – 12 minutes baking time.

FYI: These muffins freeze really well, and taste just as delicious when thawed and reheated. The trick is to seal them air tight before freezing! I wrap cooled muffins individually in either aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then place the wrapped muffins into gallon size freezer bags. Be sure your pumpkin muffins are completely cool before wrapping! Trapped steam will turn into ice crystals, which can make muffins soggy. Nobody wants that!

Jeweled Oatmeal Cookies

WIN_20150826_210252A few modifications to a basic cookie recipe can lead to surprisingly delicious results. These Jeweled Oatmeal Cookies, for example, are pretty similar to traditional oatmeal cookies. If you look at the recipe closely, you’ll notice that the spices (no cinnamon!) and¬†extracts are a bit different, and we’re using¬†colorful candied fruit instead of plain old raisins. The result is a cookie that’s simple enough for a lunchbox treat, but pretty enough for a holiday cookie exchange. Enjoy!

WIN_20150826_200850Ingredients (Makes about 45 cookies)

3/4 cup softened butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 3/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

1 cup candied fruit, diced –¬†homemade or store bought, such as Candied Mixed Fruit, Diced, 1 lb.

WIN_20150826_201758Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and almond extract. Stir until well combined.

Step 2) Add dry ingredients except for candied fruit; stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Step 3) Gently fold in candied fruit. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 4) Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 13-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Bacon Wrapped… Watermelon?

WIN_20150327_185630Yes. If you are unfamiliar with the marvel of sweet pickled watermelon rind, I highly recommend you pick up a jar and try some today!

Watermelon Rind Pickles (16 oz Jar)

WIN_20150503_111724If you’re more of a do-it-yourself’er than an online shopper, feel free to message me for a recipe. Making sweet pickled watermelon rind takes some time, but is worth it if you enjoy this delicacy as much as I do.

Either way, once you have your sweet pickled watermelon rind, making bacon WIN_20150503_113227wrapped appetizers is a SNAP. All you need is a jar of pickled watermelon rind, a pound of sliced bacon, and toothpicks.

First, cut each strip of bacon in half, into two short strips.

Second, wrap each short bacon strip around a piece of pickled watermelon rind, and WIN_20150503_115432secure with a toothpick.

Third, place bacon wrapped pieces on a baking sheet with shallow sides. I recommend lining the baking sheet with foil, for easy clean-up!

Fourth, bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until bacon is crispy. Watch carefully so that your bacon wrapped watermelon doesn’t burn!

I can practically guarantee that your party guests will not only find these appetizers delicious, but they’ll make a great conversation starter as well! ¬†Enjoy. ¬†ūüôā

Four Pepper Mini Meatloaves

WIN_20150720_203526Meatloaf doesn’t have to be boring, and this recipe definitely is not! Today we’re combining garden fresh banana peppers with three other pepper products to flavor zippy, zesty mini meatloaves. These muffin-sized meatloaves freeze well, and make hearty quick lunches. Enjoy!

WIN_20150719_191040Ingredients (Makes 12 mini meatloaves)

3 pounds lean ground beef

1 egg

3 large banana peppers, diced fine

1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika, such as Paprika Hot Smoked 2 Oz By Zamouri Spices

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

For the glaze:

1 teaspoon chili paste such as nam prik pao

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

WIN_20150720_194704Directions

Step 1) Combine ground beef, egg, diced banana peppers, paprika, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well.

Step 2) Shape mixture into twelve round loaves and place inside of muffin tin cups.

Step 3) Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet with sides and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 4) Combine chili paste, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Step 5) Remove from oven. Using a fork, remove the loaves from the muffin tins and set upside down on a serving plate. Using a pastry brush, coat meatloaves with chili glaze. Serve immediately or freeze when cool.

BBQ Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

WIN_20150902_181152When you carve Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns, don’t throw those seeds away! Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, iron, Vitamin E,¬† and a wide variety of minerals. This year we’re doing something a bit different with our pumpkin seeds, and roasting them in a medley of spices designed to impart the flavors of a barbeque dry rub. Delicious!

Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)

Seeds from 2 large pumpkins, washed well

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or use olive oil)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Zing Spices Ultimate Starter Spice Gift Set, Multi-spice Packs, Must Have for Every Kitchen, 32 varieties.

WIN_20150902_172912Directions

Step 1) Coat a large baking sheet (the kind with shallow sides) with oil, and sprinkle pumpkin seeds evenly onto the pan. If possible, pumpkin seeds should be in a single layer.

Step 2) Combine spices in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle spice mixture over pumpkin seeds.

Step 3) Roast pumpkin seeds in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning pumpkin seeds over with a spatula after 10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before snacking; the insides of pumpkin seeds can be HOT! Roasted pumpkin seeds store well in airtight lunch bags, and can also be frozen.

Pumpkin Curry Bisque

WIN_20150906_115905Serve with crusty bread for a simple supper, or serve as an accompaniment to an autumn pot roast as part of an extravagant dinner. Either way, Pumpkin Curry Bisque is just the thing to keep you warm all the way to your toes as winter approaches!

WIN_20150906_113145Ingredients (Makes about 2 quarts)

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 small white onion, peeled and cut into WIN_20150906_115412quarters

4 cups good quality pork stock

2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pumpkin seeds for garnish, optional

Directions

Bring stock, potatoes, carrot, and onion to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes and carrots are soft (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add pumpkin, coconut milk, curry powder, and salt. Puree again with an immersion blender. Sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds before serving.

 Hamilton Beach 59770 Turbo-Twister 2-Speed Hand Blender

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tarts

WIN_20150831_184305Last month we shared a quick and easy recipe for Apple Pecan Tarts, and readers loved them. So did Half Pint! While snacking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Half Pint declared, “I have a great idea! How about if we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but pies instead?”

OK. Here we go. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20150827_093203Ingredients (Makes 32 mini tarts)

1 package of roll-out refrigerated pie crust

1/2 cup of crushed peanuts

1 cup of creamy peanut butter

1 cup of grape jelly

 WIN_20150827_093602Directions

Step 1) Open the package of roll-out refrigerated pie crusts (there are two crusts per package). Instead of rolling them out, squish each crust into a big ball of dough. How fun!

WIN_20150827_093857Step 2) Place a small ball of pie crust dough, about the size of a golf ball, in each well of a mini muffin pan. Push the dough down in the center so that it flattens on the bottom and up the sides of the well. You can use a tart press (shown), a medicine cup, or just your fingers for this.

The Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper 1590

Wilton Recipe Right 24 Cup Mini Muffin Pan

Step 3) Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of crushed peanuts inside of each tart crust. Gently spoon peanut butter and jelly into each tart crust, leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top of each tart.

WIN_20150831_181239Step 4) Bake tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Step 5) Using a butter knife and/or a teaspoon (not your fingers!), remove the tarts from the mini muffin pan while they are still warm. Cool on a wire rack. These tarts freeze well for packing in school lunches!

Zucchini Chèvre Appetizers

WIN_20150831_185801Put the bread pans away, and let’s do something a little different with that last zucchini of the season, shall we? These savory, garlic infused zucchini rounds are topped with just enough flaky pastry to make the textures and flavors POP! Using roll-out, refrigerated pie crust keeps things simple enough to manage on the evening of your next cocktail party, or simply as a midnight snack on your next movie night!

WIN_20150831_174117Ingredients (Makes approximately 16 appetizers)

1 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch rings

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon preserved lemon (or substitute 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon)

4 cloves garlic

4 ounces Chèvre cheese

1 roll-out refrigerated pie crust

WIN_20150831_183310Directions

Step 1) Grease a large baking sheet and arrange zucchini slices (it’s OK if they’re touching each other).

Step 2) Combine olive oil, preserved lemon, and garlic in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Use a pastry brush to generously coat the tops of each zucchini slice.

Step 3) Place 1 heaping teaspoon of Chèvre cheese on top of each zucchini slice, slightly off center.

Step 4) Roll out the refrigerated pie crust and cut 16 small (1 Р2 inch diameter) shapes using cookie cutters. Place one shape on each zucchini slice, so that the pastry slightly overlaps the Chèvre.

Cosmos ¬ģ Mini Cookie Cutter Set 12 Multi Shapes with Cosmos Fastening Strap

Step 5) Brush the tops of the pastry shapes with any remaining garlic/lemon/oil mixture.

Step 6) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes, watching carefully. The pastry should be golden brown, but don’t let the edges burn!

Serve while warm.

Apple Gingerbread

WIN_20150901_172011What tastes like autumn and makes your kitchen smell amazing? Apple Gingerbread! Imagine warm, fragrant gingerbread combined with baked apples… what’s not to love? This dish is equally fabulous for Sunday brunch or a weeknight dessert.

WIN_20150901_154959Ingredients (Fills a 9 inch pie dish)

1 large apple, diced

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/3 cup all-natural applesauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/3 cup molasses

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk

WIN_20150901_160228

Step 1) Grease a 9 inch pie dish. Sprinkle chopped apple evenly on bottom of the pie dish.

Good Cook 9 Inch Ceramic Pie Plate, Red

Step 2) Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium size bowl and blend well. Spread batter evenly over chopped apple.

Step 3) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Corn Fritters

WIN_20150831_185450The season for sweet corn comes and goes in the blink of an eye, but Oh how fabulous that season is while it lasts! Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we try to shuck and process 2 dozen ears of sweet corn every day until the local farm stand closes. Today’s creation was a big platter of Corn Fritters, which were divine with maple syrup. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

WIN_20150831_183618Ingredients (Makes 16 fritters, approximately 3 inches in diameter)

2 cups corn kernels (frozen and thawed is fine)

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/4 cup flour

WIN_20150831_184010Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well.

Step 2) Drop by heaping tablespoonsful onto a well greased griddle or frying pan. Fry over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Enjoy while hot!

Lodge L9OG3 Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Round Griddle, 10.5-inch

 

Salted Green Bean Crisps

WIN_20150831_101227Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re big fans of vegetable snacks such as zucchini crisps, seasoned kale, and Brussels sprouts chips.¬†But green beans? Well, why not?

Green beans are abundant this time of year, so I trimmed a few pounds and experimented. First, I just dehydrated a few beans without any other preparation.

Yuck.

Second, I blanched a few beans in boiling water and salted them before dehydrating.

Better, but not something I would make twice.

My third attempt was spot on. I roasted the beans before placing them in the dehydrator, and the results were delicious! I now keep a little container of Salted Green Bean Crisps in my car, for guilt-free snacking as I drive past three ice cream stores (no joke) on my way home from the gym!

WIN_20150830_164418Ingredients (Fills a quart size container)

1 pound fresh green beans

1 tablespoon oil (I like toasted sesame oil, but coconut oil also works well)

1 tablespoon sea salt

WIN_20150830_171728Directions

Step 1) Wash and trim ends from green beans.

Step 2) Coat green beans with 1 tablespoon of oil on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Roast beans in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 3) Allow green beans to cool, then transfer to food dehydrator trays. Dehydrate for 12 hours, or until beans snap in half easily. Store beans in an airtight container.

Ronco FD1005WHGEN 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator