January Freebie for You!

lizzyjane

We’re giving away one free copy of Lizzy & Jane, by Katherine Reay!

Contest Ends: January 30th

How to Win: Mention Crowded Earth Kitchen posts on your Facebook or Twitter accounts!

Every mention/link counts as one entry – enter as many times as you like!

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Elizabeth is a talented chef whose personal distractions are interfering with her cooking, which in turn is interfering with the profits of her otherwise admiring boss. Against Elizabeth’s wishes, a celebrity chef is brought in to temporarily assist in turning things around. Elizabeth doesn’t cope with this well, and takes a hiatus from the restaurant.

At this point, the story seemed to invoke plot lines reminiscent of Barbara O’Neal, whose food fiction novels I greatly admire. However, when Elizabeth’s hiatus lands her on the doorstep of Jane, her estranged sister who is fighting a battle with cancer, the story becomes uniquely Katherine Reay’s.

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of cancer themes in fiction novels – not at all. I prefer engaging struggles that are, well, fictional (should the main character follow that amazing guy off into the sunset, or should she take the money she unexpectedly fell into and buy the orchard of her dreams… I like those sorts of fictional struggles!). Reading the gritty details of Jane’s drug treatments, side effects, and resulting family strain made my heart heavy. It was, however, a realistic and gripping portrayal of two sisters trying to repair their relationship, and eventually converted me to the strengths of such realistic fiction.

Throughout the story, Katherine Reay expertly weaves Elizabeth’s cooking struggles effectively into the expanding plot. When Elizabeth turns her cooking talents to the task of preparing meals desirable to the palates of people struggling with food due to the side effects of chemotherapy, the reader is pulled into an aspect of cooking-for-healing that is rarely portrayed in books.

Lizzy & Jane is not a beach read… it won’t make you laugh nearly as often as it will tug at your heart. Nonetheless, for gripping “sister fiction” written with finesse, I highly recommend this book!

Book of the Month Nomination – Please Vote!

We’re pretty excited here at Crowded Earth Kitchen today!

Carly Ellen’s food fiction novel, How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé, has been nominated at Goodreads for the January Book of the Month Read in the “Free Pick” category!  If you could take a moment to click on this link and vote, that would be fabulous!

Thank you for supporting Indie Authors!

How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle Blue Cover

Breakfast Cake (Frühstückskuchen) in Fehmarn, Germany

If there is any such thing as a perfect day, I may very well have stumbled upon it the day I first baked this cake. Last summer in northeast Germany, I enjoyed an early morning slice of warm Frühstückskuchen with a mug of strong, black coffee while watching my children play outside in the land of their great, great grandparents.  For an American intent on reconnecting with her German ancestry, it was an amazing moment.

It’s time to bake another Frühstückskuchen and reminisce!

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Bridge to Fehmarn Island

Ingredients (makes 1 9″ x 13″ cake)

2 cups grated carrot

1 cup peeled, chopped apple

3/4 cup real applesauce (no corn syrup)

1/4 cup canola oil

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

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Fehmarn Lighthouse (One of several, but the only one open to the public)

 

Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour a 9″ x 13″ cake pan.

Step 2) Combine carrots, apple, applesauce, oil, eggs, and sugar in a large bowl.

Step 3) Combine spices, baking powder, baking soda, and flours in a second large bowl.

Step 4) Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Step 5) Spread batter into the pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick

inserted into the center comes out clean.  Check after 35 minutes; do not overbake.

Step 6) Let cool slightly before cutting.  Serve with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

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Roses bloomed everywhere on the island!

 

Paleo Apple Fritters

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Traveling to Austria and not indulging in local desserts would be… why, that would be simply unthinkable!  And so, we indulged…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile we didn’t find an Austrian dessert we didn’t like (and it wasn’t for lack of sampling!), we were particularly smitten by the apple fritters at a little Salzburg café:

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Apple Fritters in Salzburg

 

The fresh apple rings were decadently battered, deep fried, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and served with a side of Chantilly crème.  What’s not to love about that?  Well, it turns out that the waistband of my jeans has other thoughts on the matter (sigh).  I can try to blame the ill fit on the dryer, but let’s be honest… the deep fried batter has got to go.

Have no fear!  The jeans-friendly version of apple fritters featured below captures the same wonderful flavors, but lightens things up a bit.  It’s paleo, too!  The combination of salt from the almonds and sweet from the honey is simply divine.  I hope you enjoy this guilt-free pleasure.

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Castle (Salzburg, Austria)

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Horses (Salzburg, Austria)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 large, firm apples

1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon ground mace (or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped, salted almonds

2 tablespoons honey

WIN_20140905_200538Directions

Step 1) Slice 1/4 inch off of the top and bottom of each apple.  Slice each apple into 4 pieces, crosswise (through the core).

Step 2) Use a tiny cookie cutter or petit fours cutter to punch out the center of each apple slice.

Step 3) Melt half of the coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add half the apple slices, sprinkle with ground mace, and cook for 3 minutes on each side.

WIN_20140905_200333Step 4) Repeat with remaining coconut oil and apple slices.

Step 5) Arrange cooked apple slices in a ring on a serving platter (alternatively, arrange on 4 individual serving plates).

Step 6) Sprinkle chopped almonds over the apple slices, and drizzle with honey.  Enjoy while warm!

“Almost Austrian” Baked Dumplings

 

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Sometimes, when I am inspired to recreate a dish I enjoyed while traveling, I am able to conjure up something remarkably similar without too many surprises.  This… well, this was not one of those times.

Bread dumplings, or semmelknoedel, are a common side dish in Austria.  These large white dumplings, typically cooked in boiling water and topped with a savory sauce, are quite a comfort food.  My travel companions really enjoyed them, so I thought I’d give it a go.  How hard can it be to make a big dumpling out of bread?  Well…

To be fair, I was warned.  Don Chase shared a semmelknoedel recipe online, and specifically talked about how this type of dumpling can fall apart in boiling water if one doesn’t get the recipe just right.  Rather than actually heeding this warning, I plowed forward with my own ideas.  I wanted a healthier, whole wheat dumpling.  I also wanted to ramp up the flavor a bit, perhaps by adding some fresh red pepper and smoked paprika.  Everything seemed to be going fine until I plopped a dumpling in boiling water.  Then, disaster struck:

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Ugh. Gross.

My mother happened to stop by during Operation Dumpling Disaster.  After we both had a good laugh about the awful looking contents in the boiling pot, she simply shrugged and said, “Eh. Bake ’em.”  Yes, of course – BAKE the dumplings!  Let’s pretend I would have thought of that.

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Baked Dumplings Fresh from the Oven

Well, the baked dumplings turned out FABULOUS, and what was almost discarded as a kitchen blunder has now become a recipe I will make again and again.  I hope you enjoy these “Almost Austrian” Baked Dumplings!

WIN_20140904_154914Ingredients (Makes 6 large dumplings)

1/2 loaf stale whole wheat bread (bread must be very dry), cubed

2 room temperature eggs

1 cup warm milk

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mushroom Cream Sauce:

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound button mushrooms, sliced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup light sour cream

2 tablespoons milk

WIN_20140904_170216Directions

Step 1) Gently toss together dry bread cubes, eggs, and milk.  Let stand during step 2.

Step 2) Cook onion and red pepper in 1 tablespoon butter until onion is translucent.  Add paprika and salt.  Remove from heat and add contents of pan to bread mixture.

Step 3) Using your hands, shape bread mixture into 6 large dumplings.  You’ll need to really squeeze the mixture into tight spheres, or the dumplings won’t hold their shape.

Step 4) Place dumplings in a greased baking dish and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Step 5) While dumplings are baking, cook mushrooms in 1 tablespoon butter until mushrooms release their liquid into the pan.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sea salt, sour cream and milk.  If mixture is too thick, add another tablespoon of milk.

Step 6) Spoon mushrooms and sour cream sauce over warm dumplings.  Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and parsley.  Serve immediately.

 

Goulash in Austria?

 

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Prior to visiting Austria, I had thought of Goulash as a specifically Hungarian dish.  Goulash does have Hungarian origins, but I quickly learned that relegating the dish to Hungary alone would be an error.  Austria and Hungary share a storied history, and indeed were unified under one government for some time.  Currently, Austria and Hungary share a 220 mile border.  It stands to reason, then, that these two countries would share many nuances of their food cultures with one another.  This would explain why one of the best meals we enjoyed in Austria, and perhaps in all of Western Europe, was a perfectly prepared Goulash.

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Residenzbrunnen Baroque Fountain in Salzburg

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Residenzplatz (Public Square) in Salzburg

What is Goulash? The name sounds a bit off-putting, to be perfectly honest!  Don’t let the name steer you astray – Goulash is a delightful comfort food, perfect for approaching Autumn weather.  It’s basically a stew, but different from an American beef stew in that the broth is much more rich and heavily seasoned with paprika.  I’ve simplified the recipe below a bit, saving the bread dumpling in the top photo above for a future recipe (bread dumplings are really a dish in their own right).  Instead of the bread dumpling, I’ve added additional vegetables below.  The end result captures the flavors of Austrian Goulash with more vitamins and fewer carbs.  You’ll want to start this recipe the night before serving… it’s super easy with a slow cooker, don’t worry!

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4 large, very ripe tomatoes

1 large onion

1 large red bell pepper

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon hot Hungarian paprika

1 tablespoon smoked Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 pounds beef roast

6 medium potatoes

6 small onions, halved

6 carrots, peeled and halved

Directions

Step 1) The night before serving, cut tomatoes, 1 large onion, and red bell pepper into chunks.  Place in a crock-style slow cooker.  Add wine, cover, and cook on low overnight.

Step 2) The next morning, puree contents of slow cooker with an immersion blender.  Stir in paprika.  Leave the slow cooker turned on low, and leave the lid off the slow cooker during Step 3.  This will help to evaporate any excess liquid.

Step 3) Cut the beef roast into serving size chunks (cutting a 2 pound roast into 12 pieces works well).  Sprinkle with salt, and brown all sides on a hot pan for 2 minutes per side.  You will probably need to do this in 2 batches.

Step 4) Add browned beef to the slow cooker and sauce.  Place small onions and carrots on top.  Replace lid on slow cooker, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until meat comes apart easily with a fork.

Step 5) Just before serving, poke potatoes with a fork and microwave until tender (check after 5 minutes, but may take 8 minutes or longer).  Yes, we’re using a microwave.  There’s no need to be all precious about it.  Your potatoes will actually have a more pleasing texture this way, trust me.

Step 6) Place a cooked potato in each serving bowl and arrange a serving of meat, onions, and carrots alongside.  Generously ladle Goulash sauce over the top of everything.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired, and serve immediately.

Have You Entered Yet? Last Chance to Win!

lemon cakeThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender

Crowded Earth Kitchen is offering five – that’s right, FIVE – ways to win!

Contest Ends September 1st

*** CLICK HERE TO ENTER! ***

“My mouth – always so active, alert – could now generally identify forty of fifty states in the product or meat I ate. I had taken to tracking those more distant elements on my plate, and each night, at dinner, a U.S. map would float up in my mind as I chewed and I’d use it to follow the nuances in the parsley sprig, the orange wedge, and the baked potato to Florida, California, and Kansas, respectively. I could sometimes trace eggs to the county” (p. 95).

As a child, I loved reading The Chocolate Touch, by Patrick Skene Catling. To me, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is the grown-up, quirky distant cousin of a childhood favorite. Instead of a greedy little boy who learns it really is possible to have too much of a good thing when everything he touches turns to chocolate, Aimee Bender offers us Rose Edelstein, a precocious little girl with a most unusual and unfortunate gift. To Rose’s great dismay, she learns she can taste emotions cooked and baked into her food.

Rose’s peculiar and unshakeable ability might be tolerable if she weren’t surrounded by such an odd cast of characters. But that wouldn’t make for an interesting story, would it? Instead, Rose lives with a detached and clueless father, a melancholy and secretive mother, and an older brother who blends into the background most extraordinarily well. Rose finds grains of sanity in her friendship with Eliza, whose mother can be relied upon to cook happy tasting food, and her unlikely alliance with George, the surprisingly normal friend of her very strange brother.

In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender accomplishes the extraordinary… she gives her food characters the same depth and development as many fiction authors give their human characters. The textures, flavors, scents, kitchen environment, and baker of Rose’s favorite lemon cake are described in several pages of detail, and lemon cake is just one food of many to receive such grand attention to detail. Foodies and fiction aficionados alike will enjoy this eccentric tale.