Garlic Rosemary Refrigerator Pickles

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If you’ve never made pickles, what are you waiting for? If you can slice cucumbers into bite size pieces and boil water, you have all of the skills you need to make scrumptious homemade pickles! You don’t even need to fuss with canning jars – just place your pickles in any resealable container in the refrigerator, and wait a week. Voila! Delicious.

This recipe uses garlic and rosemary instead of dill, for a flavor that’s refreshingly different from store-bought pickles. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20160725_160826Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

8 cups of bite size cucumber chunks Continue reading

Easy Pickled Beets

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Easy Pickled Beets are great in salads!

I adore homemade pickled beets. Much more crisp and flavorful than store-bought beets in tin cans (ugh), these Easy Pickled Beets are delicious right out of the jar. Better yet, try them on a green salad with a bit of Chevre cheese… yum!

While this recipe is suitable for water bath canning, you don’t actually need to “can” anything. If you wish, you can prepare this recipe and simply store your beets in a container in the fridge. Also, if you don’t want quite as many pickled beets as the recipe below provides, simply cut the recipe in half. Remember, Continue reading

Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup

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Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup

In my corner of the world, summer is short! Hot, sunny days are for swimming, reading in the hammock, and playing in the garden. Even with as much as I love to cook, now is not the time for spending hours in the kitchen!

Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup will have you back outside in five minutes flat. That’s right, this savory, cold soup takes mere minutes to prepare, and makes an excellent Continue reading

Zucchini “Apples”

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Zucchini “Apples”

The zucchini plants in my garden have gone completely bonkers. The first few zucchini were fun… we enjoyed Cheesy Zucchini Roses for dinner, and filled the freezer with Chocolate Zucchini Bread… but the zucchini just keep growing! Here’s another delicious way to make good use of this abundant garden vegetable. Zucchini “Apples” can be frozen or canned, and make a delicious “Apple” crisp (see below). And yes, they taste just like apples.

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Ingredients (Makes 6 quarts)

6 large zucchini

2 cups lemon juice

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

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Directions

Step 1) Peel zucchini and remove 1/2 inch from each end. Slice peeled zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds. The pulpy middle, which contains seeds, is a brighter white color than the outer flesh – scrape out all of the pulp with a spoon and add this to your compost pile. Slice the zucchini flesh into bite size pieces, approximately 1 inch long and 1/3 inch thick. You should have about 24 cups of zucchini pieces.

Step 2) Combine zucchini pieces and all remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and allow zucchini to simmer until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Proceed with any of the following options:

Option 1) To freeze your zucchini apples, allow the zucchini to cool slightly. Then, ladle the zucchini apples into quart size freezer bags. Squeeze out the air, seal tightly, and freeze. You’ll end up with 6 to 8 freezer bags of zucchini apples.

WIN_20160724_120815Option 2) To can your zucchini apples, ladle them hot into sterilized canning jars. Leave 1/2 inch of head space. Seal with lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

 

Option 3) To make zucchini apple crisp, place 8 cups of zucchini apples from Step 2 in a medium size pot. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together 1/2 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Drizzle this mixture over the zucchini apples, and bring the pot to a boil. Boil for 1 minute or until liquid is thickened. Transfer mixture to a greased 2 quart baking dish.

In a medium size bowl, combine 1 cup oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons butter. Use two forks or a pastry cutter to combine ingredients until the mixture resembles large crumbs. Spread this mixture over the zucchini apples and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Delicious!

 

Grown-Up Milkshakes

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Grown-Up Milkshakes

It’s hot outside! Cool down with a milkshake… but keep this one away from the kiddos.  😉

Ingredients (Makes 2 servings)

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks

4 ice cubes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup rum cream

1/4 cup dark rum

Directions

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into festive glasses. Garnish with whipped cream if desired!

 

Signature Recipe: Japanese Shoyu Ramen

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The results of Crowded Earth Kitchen’s ramen poll are in! Today we’re making Crowded Earth Kitchen’s version of Shoyu Ramen, the most popular type of ramen which is flavored with soy sauce. The recipe below is pretty simple to make, and offers great flavor without a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. We’re also using pork tenderloin instead of pork belly, because pork tenderloin is more affordable and more readily available in much of the US. If you’ve enjoyed ramen with pork belly, I think you’ll find the taste of this recipe very comparable.

Two tips: First, don’t skimp on the pork stock or the chicken stock. If you have time to make your own, that’s what I recommend. If not, look for good quality stock from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Ramen “is” the broth… if the broth is just OK, your finished product will be just OK. If your broth is delicious, your ramen bowls will be delicious! Second, if you have time, it’s worth preparing your pork tenderloin the day before you enjoy your ramen bowls.

Let’s get started!

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Dried shiitakes, ginger, onion, and garlic

Ingredients (Serves 6)

16 ounces dried wheat flour ramen noodles

1 cup thinly sliced greens (I used baby bok choy)

1 cup sliced bamboo shoots

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

(Optional) 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into six pieces

For the meat:

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white wine (I used Umeshu)

For the broth:

3 quarts pork stock

1 quart chicken stock

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20160701_164234Step 1) Prepare your pork tenderloin. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, and white wine to make a paste. Rub this paste all over your pork tenderloin. Let your pork tenderloin rest in a baking pan, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight (overnight is best). Then, roast your pork tenderloin, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check your pork tenderloin with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Allow your pork tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and refrigerate.

WIN_20160701_154316Step 2) Prepare your broth. In a large pot, combine pork stock, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by half. This will take approximately an hour, depending upon how gently or vigorously your pot simmers. I prefer a slow simmer. Allow broth to cool, then ladle or pour through a sieve into a second pot. This will strain out all of the flavor additives (mushrooms, onion pieces, garlic and ginger), leaving you with a clear, flavor-packed ramen broth! At this point, you can freeze your broth for future use, refrigerate your broth to use tomorrow, or return your broth to a gentle boil and proceed with Step 3!

Step 3) Prepare your noodles. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to package directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR NOODLES. When in doubt, it’s better to undercook the noodles a bit, as they will continue to cook in Step 4. Mushy noodles make terrible ramen. Seriously… don’t overcook the noodles!

Step 4) Assemble and enjoy! Here’s the fun part. First, transfer a serving of cooked noodles to a large single-serving bowl (your biggest cereal bowls will work). Second, arrange a few slices of pork tenderloin, a hard boiled egg half, a few bamboo shoots, and a few sliced greens around the edges of the bowl. Don’t mix up the toppings like you would for American-style soup… each ramen topping should occupy its own place along the edge of the bowl. Third, carefully ladle hot broth over the top of everything, to warm the ingredients. The broth should just barely cover the top the noodles… don’t drown your ramen bowl in broth. Fourth, place a small square of nori on the top of your bowl and serve immediately!

When you make this ramen, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are now as ramen obsessed as we are here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Tokyo Food Tour! Dumplings!

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Steamed Pork Dumplings

Nothing pairs more deliciously with a bowl of authentic ramen than a side of dumplings. While snacking our way through Tokyo, we sampled an endless variety of dumplings. Feast your eyes on the photos below, and answer our quick poll at the end! We’ll use your feedback to create an amazing dumpling recipe just for Crowded Earth Kitchen viewers.  🙂

Steamed Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Chili Sauce

Steamed Pork and Cabbage Dumplings with Spicy Sesame Chili Sauce

Giant Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Giant Pan-Fried Pork and Shrimp Gyoza

Steamed Pork Shumai with Peas

Steamed Pork Shumai with Peas

These are just a few of the wonderful dumplings we enjoyed. Pick a favorite, and we’ll recreate them for you!

Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

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Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Garden fresh broccoli is everywhere this time of year, and this soup recipe is just right. Too many cheesy broccoli soup recipes are essentially a brick of melted down processed “cheese” food-like substances with a stalk of broccoli waved over the top. Steer clear. Those glumpy orange soups are fat laden and nutritionally weak.

This recipe is chock full of fresh broccoli! It’s flavored with delicious chicken stock and just enough real, melted cheese to keep things interesting. One serving of Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup offers 4 grams of fiber and over 200% of your daily need for Vitamin C, all for about 100 calories and very little effort in the kitchen. Enjoy!

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Broccoli in the Garden

Ingredients (Makes 8 servings, freezes well)

8 cups broccoli, cut small

1 medium onion, cut small

4 cups good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable broth for a vegan option)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or, use your favorite seasoned salt blend)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients except for the cheddar cheese in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until broccoli is soft.

Step 2) Once the broccoli is soft, remove heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Step 3) Puree the cooked broccoli mixture with an immersion blender. If the mixture is too thick, add more chicken stock or water (1/2 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Step 4) Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and serve!

Variations

For cheesier soup, add 1 cup of shredded muenster or fontina cheese along with the 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Don’t use mozzarella… it just doesn’t work well in this soup.

For a more savory flavor, add 1/2 cup of cooked, crumbled bacon along with the shredded cheddar cheese. This adds calories, but tastes amazing!

For a pretty presentation, sprinkle the top of each bowl of Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup with diced red pepper and one or two seasoned croutons.

 

Tokyo Food Tour! Ramen!

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Shoyu Ramen with Dumplings and Rice

Ah, ramen. There are approximately 80,000 ramen restaurants in Japan. Try to wrap your head around that for a moment… that’s three times the number of McDonald’s restaurants in the entire world. Volumes of cookbooks have been written about ramen, the quintessential Japanese comfort food. Revered chefs from David Chang to Ivan Orkin have perfected their own signature bowls. You haven’t tried a bowl of real ramen yet?

Well, you simply must.

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll be happy to share a simple and delicious ramen recipe. We need you, our readers, to point us in the right direction! Would you prefer a ramen flavored with soy sauce (Shoyu Ramen) or a broth that’s even saltier (Shio Ramen)? Does a fermented broth (Miso Ramen) sound lovely? Or, would you prefer to go all in with a fatty but delicious pork stock (Tonkotsu Ramen)? They’re all delicious, it’s just a matter of personal taste.

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Many ramen shops have a vending machine such as the one shown here. Customers place their orders and make their payment at the machine, then give a ticket (like a receipt) to the server and wait for their food to arrive.

Vote here, and we’ll create something just for you!

 

Chard and Squash Blossom Sauté

WIN_20160708_110715Here in the US, there is a lot of madness right now. Working in my garden provides me with much needed respite. There is something calming about working slowly in the sunshine, blocking out media as I focus on pulling weeds, listening to bees, and tending to my vegetable plants.

Summer squash are prolific in my garden, with many zucchini and patty pan squash retaining blossoms on their ends. Those blossoms are so bright and cheerful! They’re also delicious, with a fresh, mild, almost fruity flavor. Hmm…

Swiss chard is also growing well, and I realize I haven’t had breakfast yet.  Hmm…

Here’s the super simple dish I prepared – a bit of sunshine on a plate. We could use a little more sunshine these days.

WIN_20160708_105912Ingredients (Serves 1)

6 large Swiss chard leaves, stems included

3 squash blossoms

1/2 tablespoon butter

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

WIN_20160708_110145Directions

Step 1) Slice Swiss chard stems into 1/2 inch pieces and sauté in butter for 1 minute.

Step 2) Slice Swiss chard leaves into 1 inch strips and add to the pan. Sauté for an additional minute.

Step 3) Slice the top half of each squash blossom (the orange part) into thin strips and add to the pan. Sauté for one, final minute. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Tokyo Food Tour! NINJA

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Tableside NINJA Chef

“What was your most amazing meal in Tokyo?”

That’s a common question, and an easy one to answer. Our friend Natsu, a Tokyo resident, took us for a spectacular dinner at NINJA. It was an experience we won’t soon forget!

Upon arriving, a costumed “NINJA-in-training” escorted us through narrow, stone walled passageways, over a drawbridge, and into our private dining chamber. After being seated at a traditional, low table near an indoor stream filled with treasure, we were introduced to our personal NINJA and cook. Believe me, friends, one course was even more delicious than the next!

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Awesome Children’s Meal

Two pint-size diners each enjoyed an enviable children’s meal featuring a variety of kid-friendly meats, seafoods, and sides. NINJA star crackers, colored a bold black using bamboo charcoal, were included in the children’s meal and were also featured in the first course of the adult meal along with foie gras.

The restaurant-provided descriptions of the eight-course menu we enjoyed only hint at the deliciousness…

1.Shuriken star-blades grissini

2.Cold Appetizer of the season

3.Chicken fritter NINJA style

4.Special stone-boiled soup (Japanese bouillabaisse)  ***Side note: This was one of the best soups I’ve ever enjoyed!

5.Capellini with Japanese tomato flavor

6.Meat specialty or seafood specialty of the day

7.Sushi of the season & today’s Sushi Roll

8.Today’s dessert

I tried not to annoy my dining companions with too many photos. Here’s a peek…

NINJA 2nd course

2nd Course – A savory cold shrimp soup

NINJA pasta course

5th Course – A delicately seasoned pasta dish

NINJA meat course

6th Course – This salmon was spectacular!

NINJA Sushi Course

7th Course – Sushi!

At home in the US, many otherwise excellent restaurants view dessert as something of an afterthought. Not so at NINJA! To kick off dessert, costumed NINJAs burst into our dining area through a small window, carrying mysterious black boxes for the kids (Really, who loves dessert more than kids?). To the delight of the children, the black boxes emitted an impressive amount of “smoke” thanks to the dry ice keeping their frozen treats cold. What a special effect!

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Children’s Dessert

The grown-up dessert was just as fabulous, featuring a luscious apple custard wrapped around ice cream (how, I have no idea). Look how beautiful it is!

NINJA adult dessert

Grown-Up Dessert

Tokyo offers something for everyone, of this I am convinced! If you have an aspiring NINJA among your travel companions (particularly if he is pint-sized), a dinner at NINJA will without a doubt make an utterly unforgettable experience.

Thank you, Natsu. We miss you!

 

Tsubuan Anko (Japanese Sweet Red Bean Paste)

WIN_20160628_153501Anko, or sweet red bean paste, is a very common ingredient in Japanese desserts – it’s a much more common ingredient than chocolate. Anko is made from little red adzuki beans, and as we’ll see in the recipe below, it’s pretty simple to prepare. Anko may be smooth (Koshian) or more textured (Tsubuan). While both are delicious, the textured version is easier to prepare, so that’s what we’re making Continue reading