Naked Strawberry Jam

If you are following a low sugar or no sugar diet (diabetics, keto and paleo folks, talkin’ to you here!), satisfying a sweet tooth can be a bit of a challenge. Artificial sweeteners are OK sometimes, but I think they give homemade jam a strange aftertaste. Luckily, strawberries are already sweet. After years of adding sugar to make traditional strawberry jam, I tried making a “naked” batch – no sugar, no artificial sweeteners at all.

Why should you believe me that Naked Strawberry Jam is delicious? Because my little Half-Pint has a sweet tooth that could fill the mouth of a saber-toothed tiger. The child would put honey on top of the maple syrup on his pancakes if I allowed it. I gave him a spoonful of Naked Strawberry Jam and Half-Pint declared it “Delicious!” So there you have it.

Ingredients and Directions: Cut the green tops off of two quarts of strawberries. Cut strawberries in quarters, and add to a large pot. Stir 3 tablespoons of powdered low-sugar pectin into the strawberries and cook over low-medium heat for five minutes, stirring frequently. If you want a smooth jam, use a potato masher to crush the quartered strawberries. Add a dash of cinnamon (optional) if you’re feeling fancy. After five minutes, turn the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and remains boiling for one minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Done!

Refrigerate when cool, or store in freezer.

Keto Chocolate Pudding

Whether you are keto, paleo, vegan, gluten free, or just plain looking for a more nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, this chocolate pudding recipe is worth a try. It’s also delicious frozen into popsicles – in fact, popsicles are my favorite way to enjoy this treat. Have fun!

No, the finished chocolate pudding doesn’t taste like avocados. Trust me!

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

2 ripe avocados

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (real coconut milk – not coconut water, and not “light” coconut milk)

1/4 cup stevia powder (or use real sugar if desired)

1/3 cup cocoa powder (100% cocoa)

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

A few dark chocolate chips to garnish (optional)

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients in the order listed. Blend until completely smooth. Refrigerate before serving, or freeze in popsicle molds. This really couldn’t be any simpler!

One serving contains approximately 4 net carbs.

Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup

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‘Tis the season of sugary snacks, tipsy drinks, and uber delicious, fat-laden appetizers. I love it, the kids love it, and frankly I’m skeptical of anyone who claims NOT to enjoy the nutritional free for all that tends to be December.

BUT… sometimes we need a break from the festive dining, a healthy and hearty “reset.” Enter Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup.

This soup is perfect “10” nutritionally. Simply put, there is nothing in this recipe that ISN’T good for you! The lentils themselves are chock full of fiber, protein, and iron. Carrots, greens, and salsa veggies offer a rainbow of vitamins and minerals. In earlier posts, we’ve discussed the powerful anti-angiogenic properties of onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cumin. There’s a whole lot to love in this soup… and it tastes terrific!

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Dried Red Lentils

Ingredients (Makes 1 big pot)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 carrots (2 orange and 2 yellow, if possible), chopped

1 tablespoon grated frozen turmeric root (or 1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric)

1 tablespoon grated frozen ginger root (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger)

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Grated Frozen Turmeric Root

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 3/4 cups dried red lentils

6 cups water

2 cups salsa

2 cups packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.), chopped

Plain Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and parsley to garnish

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Directions

Step 1) Saute the first eight ingredients in a large stockpot over low-medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Add lentils and water. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 – 40 minutes or until lentils and carrots are almost tender. If soup becomes too thick, add additional water, 1/2 cup at a time.

Step 3) During last five minutes of cooking, add salsa and chopped greens. Stir well.

Step 4) Ladle soup into serving bowls. Top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

Sugarplums

If you’re familiar with the Christmas classic, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, you’ll remember these lines:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

But what on earth is a “sugarplum?” Simply put, it’s an old fashioned candy made very simply out of dried fruits and nuts.  If you’re looking for something fun to bring to a holiday party or a family dinner, give these a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients

Ingredients (Makes 24, 1 inch sugarplums)

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried fruit (any combination of raisins, dates, or figs)

1 cup shelled, unsalted nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or substitute cinnamon)

2 tablespoons honey

Dried, shredded coconut and/or course sugar crystals for rolling

Directions

Step 1) Combine all dried fruit, nuts, and cardamom in a small blender or food processer and blend until smooth.

Step 2) Drizzle in honey and combine until mixture holds together.

Step 3) Roll mixture into 1 inch balls, then roll in coconut or sugar to coat.

Step 4) Let sugarplums sit out uncovered for several hours, to firm up a bit.

Step 5) Sugarplums may be stored in an airtight container for one week, or frozen for one month.

Bonus

Are you entertaining folks on paleo diets? As long as you roll these in unsweetened coconut (no sugar crystals), sugarplums are a paleo treat!

Brandied Pears

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Pears.  Brandy.  Pears preserved in brandy, in you very own kitchen.  Fa la la la la, la la la la.

If this isn’t just about the perfect homemade holiday gift, I don’t know what is.  Brandied pears are simple and quick – perfect for the busy holiday season.  A bottle of lower shelf brandy will set you back $15 or so, but divided among 8 gift jars, that’s less than $2 per jar.  You may even have a bit left over.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it up, somehow.

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Ingredients (makes 8 pint jars)

6 pounds of firm pears

4 cups of brandy

8 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups of sugar

4 cups of water

Directions

Step 1) Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Simmer over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Step 2) Peel and core pears.  Slice as desired.  I prefer 1/2 inch thick slices, as shown in the jars above.  If you prefer to leave your pears quartered or even halved, that’s fine.

Step 3) Pack pears into sterilized, pint size canning jars.  Pack the jars as tightly as you can without mashing the pears!

Step 4) Add 1/2 cup of brandy and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to each jar.

Step 5) Finish filling each jar with your sugar and water mixture, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

Step 6) Poke a spoon or other tool into the bottom of each jar to remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims clean, and top with lids and bands.

Step 7) Process jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, and check seals before giving as gifts!

These brandied pears will taste best if allowed to sit in their sealed jars for a few weeks before opening.  Serve them over ice cream, in crepes, or right out of the jar as part of a festive buffet.  Happy Holidays!

Level Up Your Gingerbread Game with Speculaas Wreath Cookies!

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If you enjoy a classic gingerbread cookie, I know you’ll adore these speculaas wreaths! Speculaas are Dutch spiced cookies in a wide variety of shapes, the most common of which are better known as windmill cookies. Whether you cut them into wreaths or windmills, these delightful cookies get their signature flavor from a spice blend called Speculaaskruiden. It’s easy to blend yourself (see recipe below). In a pinch you can substitute pumpkin pie spice mix, though the flavor will be slightly different.

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Ingredients (makes about 36 wreath cookies)

1 cup real butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Speculaaskruiden spice mix (see recipe, below)

For the icing:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 drops green food coloring

Green sugar crystals (for decorating)

Small cinnamon candies (for decorating)

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Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Speculaaskruiden.  Mix by hand; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Chill dough for at least one hour before rolling 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut dough into wreath shapes, and carefully transfer to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 4) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Step 5) While cookies are cooling, blend together butter, powdered sugar, and milk to make icing. Spoon 1/4 cup of icing into a plastic sandwich bag, and snip a tiny corner from the bag to make a homemade pastry bag. You should be able to easily squeeze icing from the bag and onto each cookie wreath, as shown above. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more milk. If the icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Step 6) After piping icing onto your cookie wreaths, sprinkle them with green sugar crystals. Place a cinnamon candy on each wreath. Beautiful!

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 Speculaaskruiden Spice Mix (makes enough for three batches of cookies)

Stir together (if using powdered spices) or grind together in a coffee grinder (if using whole spices):

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon star anise

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Cookies


win_20161202_165101My mother makes these delightful bites of holiday goodness every December… they are a Christmastime comfort food here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. There is no flour in these cookies, making them perfect for friends who eat mostly paleo but are still game for an occasional cheat. No-bake cookies are also perfect for those inevitable occasions when school-age children announce “Tomorrow’s the day I have to bring treats for ____. Sorry I forgot to tell you!”

Ingredients (Makes 3 dozen)

1   6 oz. pkg. of semi sweet chocolate chips

l/3 cup butter

16 large marshmallows

l/2 teas vanilla

1 cup coconut

2 cups rolled quick oats

Super Easy Directions

Melt butter, chocolate and marshmallows in large pot over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.  With buttered hands, roll into balls.  Place on waxed paper lined pan and chill.

That’s all there is to it! Enjoy your cookies, and don’t forget your charity cookbooks for holiday gift giving!

Global Recipe Project Cookbook!

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100% of net profits from the sale of this cookbook will benefit not-for-profit organizations which feed people as a central part of their mission!

The Global Recipe Project was made possible by cooks and food bloggers from around the world who generously shared recipes, stories, and photos for this book.

Pick up a copy from Amazon to support our mission and bring delicious, global cuisine into YOUR kitchen today! Here’s a link:
The Global Recipe Project

Shopping for a crowd? Purchase five books directly from Crowded Earth Kitchen to receive free shipping AND a sixth book absolutely free! Message us below for details.

White Pumpkin Seeds

White pumpkins are fun to carve for Halloween, and if you’re carving pumpkins of course you have to roast the seeds! Simply separate the seeds from the inner pulp (the “goo” if you’re a kid), rinse well, and spread in on a well greased pan. I prefer to use real butter for this, coating a baking pan with approximately 1 tablespoon of melted butter for each cup of seeds. Then, sprinkle generously with your favorite seasoning. Half-Pint is on a ranch kick, so we used the ranch seasoning mix shown above. Roast in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, flipping seeds with a spatula halfway through. Allow to cool slightly before enjoying.

Happy Halloween!

Autumn Biscuit Pie

Autumn Biscuit Pie fresh from the oven!

This recipe is adapted from Tomato Imperative, which we discussed while making Sweet Tomato Figs. You’ll notice that the ingredients are flexible, allowing you to use this recipe as a backbone for creating something delicious out of whatever goodies your garden is offering up today! Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter, sliced into several pieces
1/2 cup milk
3 – 4 ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup other garden vegetables (optional) such as thin sliced root vegetables or freshly cut corn
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used mint)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used muenster and gouda; cheddar would also work well)
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Step 1) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or two forks to work butter into the flour mixture until the butter resembles small crumbs. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Use your hands to work the mixture into a smooth biscuit dough.

Step 2) Press biscuit dough onto the bottom and slightly up the sides of a greased, 8 inch x 10 inch glass baking dish.

Step 3) Layer vegetables, fresh herbs, and half of the cheese over the biscuit dough.

Step 4) Combine mayonnaise, horseradish, and garlic. Gently spread mixture over the vegetables and cheese. It’s ok if ingredients move around a bit. 🙂

Step 5) Top with remaining cheese and Italian seasoning. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until both the cheese on the top and the crust on the bottom (this is why we use a glass pan!) is golden brown.

Step 6) Serve immediately. Be well, friends!

Sweet Tomato Figs

IMG_2343A few years back, my fellow gardening friend Denise gifted me with a copy of Tomato Imperative. It is unfortunate that this book is no longer being printed, as it is chock full of old school recipes for enjoying and preserving tomatoes.

Today we are making Sweet Tomato Figs, adapted from Continue reading

Deconstructed Pumpkin Stew

IMG_2306Rich, earthy stews with layers of warm and savory flavors are ubiquitous with autumn. This pumpkin stew makes good use of one of the most wonderful offerings of late season gardens… pie pumpkins. It’s so flavorful that omnivores won’t even notice how the dish is entirely vegan.

Deconstructing the stew, i.e. layering the stew over slices of roasted pumpkin instead of mixing the pumpkin into the pot of stew itself, is an awesome way to preserve the satisfying texture of freshly roasted pumpkin. Try this for your next Meatless Monday. Three cheers for autumn!

IMG_2303Ingredients (Serves 4 with leftovers)

1 pie pumpkin, 7 or 8 inches in diameter Continue reading

Fresh Tomato Soup

IMG_2231Few foods are more satisfying on an autumn afternoon than a bowl of fresh tomato soup with the last of the garden tomatoes. This recipe is simple to prepare, and doubles easily for freezing or canning. Yes, it’s safe for water bath canning, to enjoy throughout the winter! Enjoy.

Ingredients (Makes one large pot; recipe can be easily doubled OR cut in half) Continue reading

Zucchini Pickles Two Ways

Left: Spicy Zucchini Pickles    Right: Garlic Dill Zucchini Pickles

My garden zucchini plants went bonkers this year. I’ve already made zucchini apples (a favorite around here), zucchini boats, and several zucchini-enhanced baked goods. With the last of my garden zucchini – because I am uprooting the plants to make room for a late crop of onions – I’m making Easy Zucchini Pickles.

Crisp and tangy, these pickles will stand up to any cucumber pickle, I promise. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes approximately 4 quarts)

2 large (approximately 16 inch) or 3 medium (approximately 12 inch) zucchini

4 cups water

4 cups white vinegar

3/4 cup salt

1/4 cup white sugar

16 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

For garlic dill pickles: 16 heads of fresh dill -or-
For spicy pickles: 12 Thai chili peppers, scored lengthwise

Directions

Step 1) Wash zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. Slice Zucchini halves crosswise into 3/4 inch slices, then cut each slice into 2 inch pieces. Set zucchini pieces aside in a large bowl.

Step 2) In a large pot, combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and garlic. Bring brine mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to simmer.

Step 3) Pack zucchini pieces into sterilized quart jars, layering a head of dill (or a chili pepper), about 1 cup of zucchini, and about 1/2 cup of brine at a time. Don’t be afraid to really stuff the zucchini into the jar, 1 cup at a time! The back of a tablespoon can be useful for packing zucchini.

Step 4) Leave 1/2 inch head space at the top of each jar (no zucchini should be “poking up” into that last 1/2 inch of space). Make sure zucchini is covered in brine, and tap the jar (or poke with a chopstick) to remove air bubbles.

Step 5) Cover each jar with a sterilized lid and band. For refrigerator pickles, place jars in the fridge. For canning, place jars in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.

Your zucchini pickles will taste best after one week. Enjoy!