Sangria Plums

P1This recipe is a twofer, as both the Sangria brine and the marinated plums are delicious on their own. Enjoy these tangy plums baked into a simple cobbler or an elegant clafoutis. Enjoy the Sangria, well, in a glass.  😉  These little jars make lovely gifts. Let’s get started!

Note: If you don’t want to bother with canning, no worries. Stop after Step 3 and simply refrigerate your Sangria Plums. As long as you keep the plums refrigerated and completely covered with the sangria mixture, this recipe should stay fresh for at least two weeks. Continue reading

Nalewka Babuni for Beginners

N1Don’t kill the messenger, friends, but the holiday season will be here in the blink of an eye (I know, I know…). A pretty bottle of Nalewka Babuni makes a wonderful gift! Translated approximately as “Grandma’s Liqueur,” Nalewka (pronounced “Na-LEF-ka”) Babuni is Continue reading

Sneaky Leprechaun Milkshake

This vintage post was popular the first time around, and Crowded Earth Kitchen has several hundred new readers (Welcome!) since last St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m sharing this again.  Enjoy!

picture833“Mom?  Can we just stop at the drive-thru and get a (green) shake?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“Still No.”

“Pleeaassee?  I’ll do laundry.”

I’ll admit, this is where the devil on my shoulder told me that I would be a fool not to cave in just this once, and so what if the child glows in the dark for the next two weeks.  The fact is, the children in my house generate approximately 817 loads of laundry every week, and the offer of complaint-free laundry labor was enticing (that they will end up helping anyway, albeit under duress, is beside the point).  Then I had an idea…

“Still no.  But if you help with laundry cheerfully, I’ll make you a (green) shake.”

“Deal.”

Here’s what I came up with.  The kids LOVED it!  Peppermint extract is strong… a little bit can make, well, just about anything taste like peppermint.  😉  Each serving (approximately 10 ounces) contains 113 calories, 4 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.  Each serving also packs an impressive 60% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin A, and 20% of the RDA for calcium.  Compare that to the drive-thru green shake… I dare you.

picture822Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

1 cup frozen chopped spinach (Ha!  Ha ha ha!)

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 cup “real” vanilla ice cream, without any weird ingredients (I found a supermarket brand that was made from milk, cream, sugar, egg yolk, natural vanilla extract, and nothing else)

1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (Very strong!  You may even want to try a bit less than 1 teaspoon.)

Dark chocolate shavings (Optional)  

picture823Directions

Step 1) Add spinach and about half of the skim milk to a blender.  Pulse for a few seconds to thoroughly chop spinach into tiny “peppermint” size pieces.

Step 2) Add remaining milk to blender and blend for a minute or a longer until the mixture is very creamy (almost butter-like) and increases in volume.  The photo, left, shows only spinach and milk – it really does get creamy!

Step 3) Add peppermint extract and ice cream to blender.  For best results, add ice cream in several tiny scoops rather than one large scoop.  Blend until all ingredients are combined.

Step 4) Mixture will be tasty now, but thin.  For best results, pour shake mixture into a shallow container and place in the back of your freezer for one hour.  After an hour, scoop shake mixture into serving glasses (I used half pint jelly jars).  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Step 5) Try not to laugh as your loved ones unwittingly eat their spinach.  🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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!

 

Turmeric Springtime Smoothie

WIN_20160213_083023Turmeric contains an amazing substance called curcumin, which is widely recognized as both a powerful antioxidant and a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Finding ways to work turmeric into your diet is an all-around good idea. There’s a catch, though – in order for your body to absorb that valuable curcumin, you need to consume turmeric with either a little black pepper or a bit of fat.

Today’s recipe for a simple Turmeric Springtime Smoothie is designed to introduce turmeric to those unfamiliar with this little root, and contains ingredients designed to aid in curcumin absorption. Did I mention this Turmeric Springtime Smoothie has an awesome tropical flavor? What are you waiting for?

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160213_083246Ingredients (Makes 1 large smoothie)

2 tablespoons freshly grated turmeric root Continue reading

High Protein Breakfast Smoothie

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It is a fact, at least in the US, that married men have a longer life expectancy than single men. Plenty of married men have joked that this isn’t really true, life just seems longer, but I’ll leave that one alone.  😉  All kidding aside, I do what I can to look out for my favorite guy’s health, and that begins with breakfast. Favorite Guy isn’t much of a breakfast eater, but he works long days this time of year, and (I think) would benefit from quick, high protein breakfast. This breakfast drink packs upward of 15 grams of protein, and is the latest trick in my sinister plot to keep Favorite Guy healthy, breakfast fan or not!

Ingredients (Makes 1 high protein smoothie)

1 Tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 Tablespoon real peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

1 Tablespoon Chia seeds

1/4 cup frozen berries (any variety, I like blueberries)

1 cup skim milk

Directions

Simply blend all ingredients together until smooth. So simple!

Inside Out Bloody Marys

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This just might be the easiest item to prepare on your entire party buffet… and the most popular! Who doesn’t love a good Bloody Mary? Sure, the spicy, tomato based vodka beverage is tasty, but everyone knows the best part of a well made Bloody Mary is the garnish. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we ran with that idea and created Inside Out Bloody Marys. The beverage itself is shot sized and potent, accompanied by an assortment of excellent pickled vegetables. Rock On!

Ingredients (Serves 12)

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) spicy Bloody Mary mix, chilled (Preservation and Co. Bloody Mary Mix 32 Oz. Jar)

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) good quality vodka, chilled

1 cup of pickled mushrooms

1 cup of pickled beans (Tabasco Beans, Spicy, 16 Ounce)

1 cup of pickled okra (TABASCO Spicy Pickled Okra 12 oz. jar)

Double (3 ounce) shot glasses

Toothpicks

Directions

OK, friends – this is easy enough to prepare even if you’ve already enjoyed a full size Bloody Mary or three.  😉  Begin by arranging your relishes in the center of a party platter. If you want more than three options, go for it. Try thick slices of dill pickles, ginger pickled carrots, garlic stuffed green olives, rosemary pickled cherry tomatoes, etc.

Next, arrange your shot glasses on the outer edge of the party platter. Fill your shot glasses half full with chilled vodka, and top with chilled Bloody Mary mix. Serve immediately!

 

Frozen Watermelon Sangria

WIN_20150725_123400Gossiping with my little sister over cocktails isn’t something I get to do everyday – she lives almost 700 miles away, probably because I was bossy as a child.  🙂  In all seriousness, rare afternoons with my little sis are fun! On our most recent visit, we enjoyed this Frozen Watermelon Sangria. I think you’ll enjoy it, too!

WIN_20150725_122643Ingredients (Makes 2 jumbo servings)

2 baby watermelon (about the size of a large grapefruit)

1 cup of fruity, dry red wine

1/4 cup triple sec

WIN_20150725_1225511/2 lemon (peel included), cut in small chunks

crushed ice

citrus slices for garnish

WIN_20150725_123255Directions

Step 1) Set watermelons on a countertop to see how they naturally balance. Cut a thin slice off of the top (parallel to the countertop) of each watermelon. Carefully scoop out the insides, placing the watermelon flesh in a blender. DON’T GET CARRIED AWAY – if you accidentally puncture the watermelon rind, you can’t use the rind as a serving cup!

Step 2) Add wine, triple sec, and lemon to the blender. Add crushed ice to fill the blender, and blend until the mixture resembles a pink slush. If mixture is too thick, add a bit of water, orange juice, or wine. If mixture is too thin, add more ice.

Step 3) Pour mixture carefully into watermelon shells. Garnish with citrus slices (and an adorable little umbrella if you have them on hand) and serve immediately!

…and little sis, about that Play-Doh I made you eat as a child… sorry about that…  😉

 

Strawberry Mint Mojitos

WIN_20150527_230412I have a sister who has a talent for mixing drinks. When she shakes something up in her kitchen, it looks and tastes like a beverage you’d pay a high price for in a fancy bar. I’ve asked her for her bloody mary recipe so many times that she has threatened to charge me next time… I think she means it. This summer, rather than driving my sister crazy, I’ve decided to channel my inner mixologist and have some fun! With fresh herbs and ripe fruits readily available, even I (a bartending rookie) ought to be able to make something tasty, right? These Strawberry Mint Mojitos are delightful – let me know what you think!

WIN_20150527_225427Ingredients (Makes 2 tall glass servings)

1/2 cup fresh, very ripe strawberries

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (spearmint or pineapple mint)

1/3 cup light rum

1/3 cup frozen limeade concentrate

ice

seltzer water

Directions

Step 1) Pulse strawberries, mint, rum, and limeade concentrate in a small food processor or blender until well blended.

Step 2) Pour over ice into two tall glasses. Top with seltzer water and stir quickly.

Step 3) Garnish with a strawberry, a mint leaf, and an umbrella (of course!). Serve immediately.

Watermelon Lime Cooler

WIN_20150529_105252What’s with the food industry’s obsession with fake watermelon? You know what I’m talking about… lipstick-colored watermelon sherbets and sorbets, cloyingly sweet and perfumed watermelon bubblegum, and powdered drink mixes containing a dozen different ingredients not found in nature. These products seem to grow in popularity during the summer months, when REAL watermelon is available! It just doesn’t make any sense.

Try this instead: buy an actual, real watermelon. Cut it in half, scoop out the delicious fruit, and puree it in a blender (this should be done in small batches). Then, freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Once frozen, you can pop out the cubes, freeze them in a bag, and use them all summer in delicious beverages! I’ll even confess to freezing extra watermelon for “emergency” summer drinks in the dead of winter. True story.

To make today’s Watermelon Lime Cooler, simply puree 1/2 of a lime (with or without the peel, it’s up to you), 6 cubes of frozen watermelon puree, and 1/4 cup of cold water. That’s IT – for about 10 seconds of effort, you get a refreshing glass of real summer flavor, complete with fiber, vitamin C, and beneficial lycopene. Need something a little sweeter? Add a teaspoon of marmalade before you blend the ingredients together. Enjoy!

Margaritas on a Budget (Cinco de Mayo, Part IV)

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Happy Cinco de Mayo! We’re capping off our four part series with margaritas, the ubiquitous Mexican dinner party beverage! It’s not difficult to find recipes for delicious margaritas – just do a quick web search. Every celebrity chef seems to have their own concoction, featuring one (or more) top shelf tequilas blended with other top shelf indulgences such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and Combier. I’m sure they’re delicious. The problem is, the ingredients for these celebrity-endorsed blends can easily set you back $100 or more… I am not joking. To Crowded Earth Kitchen sensibilities, shelling out that kind of cash for mixed drinks is simply insane.

Let’s plant our feet back on the ground and blend up a batch of Margaritas on a Budget. While you won’t find a recipe quite like this one endorsed by a celebrity chef, I’m confident that one taste will convince you… these are pretty darn good. Better still, you won’t have to choose between making a margarita or buying groceries for the rest of the week!

WIN_20150424_213323Ingredients (Makes 2 Margaritas)

1/2 of a lime, peel and all, cut in small pieces

1 teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 heaping tablespoon frozen limeade juice concentrate

10 ice cubes

1/4 cup white tequila (any brand)

2 tablespoons water (or use an extra 2 tablespoons of tequila)

For garnish: 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, plus 2 slices of lime

WIN_20150424_211814Directions

Step 1) Sprinkle sugar, salt, and grated lime zest on a small salad plate. Pour a few tablespoons of water onto another, separate salad plate.

Step 2) Dip the rims of two glasses into the plate of water, then dip into the plate of salt/sugar/lime zest. Stand glasses upright and place a slice of lime on each rim to complete the garnish.

Step 3) Combine chopped limes, juice concentrates, ice cubes, tequila, and water in a blender. Puree until smooth. If mixture is too thick to pour, add another 2-3 tablespoons of water.

Step 4) Pour into prepared glasses and serve immediately.

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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!

“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.

Tamarind Orange Cooler

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Indigenous to Sudan and grown in many tropical regions, tamarind is a curiously sour-and-sweet ingredient. I’m not quite sure what to call it, since it’s used (often, anyway) as a fruit, but is genetically a legume. Like other legumes, it is dense in calories but high in fiber, iron, and a variety of minerals.

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Whole Tamarind Pods

Tamarind can be an acquired taste, but I find it delicious. I’ve heard it described as “sweet-sour,” but really, it’s more sour than sweet. It is an incredibly versatile ingredient found in everything from complex and savory main dishes to addictively sticky-sweet candies. The Tamarind Orange Cooler we’re making today is a nice introduction to this ingredient. It makes a cheerful breakfast drink or (my preference) an awesome way to rehydrate after a workout.

If you’d like to try tamarind without fussing with fresh tamarind pods, pick up a jar of tamarind paste: Tamicon Tamarind Paste 8oz In the recipe below, simply substitute 2 tablespoons tamarind paste and 8 ice cubes for the frozen tamarind cubes. If you’re using jarred tamarind paste, you can skip all the way to the last step (Step #5) below. So easy!

Ingredients (Makes 2 coolers)

1/2 pound of whole tamarind pods

3 cups orange juice

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Peeled tamarind flesh is shown in the dish on the right.

Directions

Step 1) Use your fingers to remove the shells from the tamarind pods (similar to shelling peanuts, very easy). Also remove any big fibrous strands you see underneath the shell.

Step 2) You will be left with long, sticky pods of tamarind flesh. It’s not very attractive, but it’s delicious! Feel free to sample the tamarind, just be careful not to bite into the seeds (think of peas in a pod) that are hidden inside the flesh! Place the pods of tamarind flesh in a saucepan and cover with water. The water level should be above, but not more than 1 inch above, the tamarind pods.

Step 3) Simmer the tamarind flesh in water for about 20 minutes. The flesh should look like it is beginning to dissolve in the water. Remove from heat and strain the contents of the saucepan through a fine sieve – SAVE THE LIQUID. Using a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon, push as much of the softened tamarind pulp through the sieve as possible. You will be left with seeds and fibers, which can be added to your compost bin at this point.

WIN_20150405_203417Step 4) Transfer the liquid and pulp (all of which has gone through the sieve) to an ice cube tray and freeze for several hours or overnight.

Step 5) After freezing, combine 8 tamarind ice cubes and 3 cups of orange juice in a blender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!