Dried Pineapple Snacks

pineappleWith all the flavor of fresh, ripe pineapple and a chewy, candy-like texture, Dried Pineapple Snacks are perfect for combating a case of midday munchies. Even better, this snack has Continue reading

Freshly Canned Pineapple

pineappleIn my Midwest US community, pineapple is selling for $1.29 this week at Aldi. I have a sister-in-law who lives in Hawaii (I’m not irrationally jealous, really. Mostly.). Do you know what she told me pineapple is selling for in Hawaii – you know, where pineapple is grown?

$1.29

I can’t make this stuff up.

Today we’re taking advantage of this insanely low price by preserving pineapple in canning jars. It’s super easy, and tastes just like fresh Continue reading

Savory Garden Pie

WIN_20160809_182515My apologies, friends. I’ve been playing in the garden, and haven’t offered up a new recipe for a few days now. What began a few weeks ago as a daily walk to the garden with a kitchen bowl has blossomed into a daily walk to the garden with a wheelbarrow. The harvest this year is amazing!

A few days ago, I pulled all of the beets in my beet patch. Oh my, what a job! The highlight of the morning was watching the kiddos gleefully spray a huge pile of freshly pulled beets with the garden hose. While most of the bounty found its way into jars of pickled beets, I saved a few for this Savory Garden Pie. With rich flavors of ricotta, walnuts, and earthy root vegetables, Savory Garden Pie makes a delightful dinner with a side salad and crusty bread. Bon Appetit!

108761Ingredients (Makes 1 pie, serves 6 – 8)

1 roll-out, refrigerated pie crust

2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon seasoning mix, such as Wildtree Picnic Salad Blend*

1 egg

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1 cup chopped walnuts

3 cups sliced root vegetables (any combination of beets, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, or turnips would be delicious)

* Interested in Wildtree products? Feel free to email my favorite Wildtree consultant, Tricia, at adams4@ncn.net     

WIN_20160809_172404

Ricotta mixture with 1 teaspoon of beet juice for color (optional)

Directions

 

Step 1) (Optional) If you prefer your vegetables fork-tender instead of crisp, steam your sliced root vegetables in a steamer rack for 3 – 5 minutes.

Step 2) Roll out your refrigerated pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate.

Step 3) In a small mixing bowl, combine ricotta, egg, seasoning mix, parmesan, and walnuts. Blend well. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the pie crust.

Step 4) Arrange sliced root vegetables on top of the ricotta mixture. If desired, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Step 5) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

 

Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

strawberry jamIt’s that time of year again, friends – Wahoo! Strawberry season! To be fair, strawberry season is still a few weeks away in my Northern climate. However, my sister is visiting from Arkansas, and brought several boxes of fresh picked berries with her (isn’t she awesome?).

The thing about strawberries is, they’re delicious for about one day after they are picked. If you have a large quantity of strawberries to preserve, you need to work fast! Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam is super fast! Ready… Set… GO!

Ingredients (Makes 4  cups)

5 cups of strawberries, washed and cut in half (green hulls removed)

5 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

Directions

Step 1) Place halved strawberries in a large pot. Mash the strawberries a few times with a potato masher. Add sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

Step 2) Bring strawberry mixture to a full, vigorous boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. You want this mixture to really boil… it should boil enough that bubbles continue to cover the surface of the mixture even when you are stirring!

Step 3) When your strawberry mixture has reached a FULL boil (this will take at least ten minutes, maybe longer), stir in the pouch of pectin. Allow the mixture to return to a FULL boil, and boil with stirring for two minutes.

Step 4) Remove the pot from the heat and add grated lemon zest. Stir gently. Allow your Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam to cool before ladling into storage containers. This jam will keep nicely in the refrigerator for two weeks, or can be frozen for up to six months. [As if strawberry jam would be neglected for six months – ha!]

 

Lazy Cheesy Eggplant

WIN_20160328_085536I love cooking with eggplant – it’s very low in calories and versatile – but I don’t always think of eggplant when I’m looking for something fast. Lazy Cheesy Eggplant requires only a few minutes to prepare, and a half hour in the oven… the results are addictively delicious! Each high fiber serving of Lazy Cheesy Eggplant contains approximately 125 calories.

Side note: We’re using frozen eggplant here, because the texture Continue reading

Rainbow of Roasted Vegetables

WIN_20160206_213713It’s easy to get The Blaaahs this time of year.

“What exactly are ‘The Blaaahs‘,” you ask?

The Blaaahs is the highly scientific term (not really) for feeling run down, sluggish, under-rested, over-worked, and seriously lacking in the rejuvenating powers of sunshine and sand! Short of booking a plane ticket to Jamaica – not that I object to that idea – the best way to beat The Blaaahs is to fortify your diet with brightly colored, vitamin packed vegetables. Try this Rainbow of Roasted Vegetables for dinner tonight, and let me know if you feel a bit better tomorrow!

WIN_20160206_211338Ingredients (Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish)

1 bright orange yam, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 purple sweet potato, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 cup shiitake or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2 cups fresh green broccoli, cut bite size

1 small red bell pepper, cut bite size

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lemon

Directions

Step 1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon 3 tablespoons of coconut oil onto a large baking sheet with shallow sides, and place in the oven for 1 minute to melt.

Step 2) Remove baking sheet from oven, and use a metal spatula to spread the melted coconut oil all over the baking sheet. Place orange yam and purple sweet potato slices on baking sheet, then turn over with a spatula so that both sides are lightly coated with oil.

Step 3) Place baking sheet in oven and roast yams/sweet potatoes for 10 minutes.

Step 4) Remove baking sheet from oven after 10 minutes. Add broccoli to the pan, and turn over everything on the pan once more. Return pan to oven for another 10 minutes.

Step 5) After another 10 minutes have passed, remove baking sheet from oven again. Add mushrooms and red pepper to the pan, and turn over everything on the pan one final time. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over all of the vegetables, and return the pan to the oven for a final 10 minutes.

Step 6) Remove pan from the oven after the final 10 minutes, and taste to see that the vegetables are done to your liking. (If not, feel free to return the pan to the oven for a few minutes.) Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon evenly over all of the vegetables, and serve!

Crowd Pleasing Cranberry Sauce

WIN_20151118_181626

Don’t forget the cranberry sauce on your holiday buffet. It adds bright festive color as well as palate-cleansing flavors to your party! Here’s a recipe for a big batch. Enjoy!

WIN_20151118_165543Ingredients (Makes 6 cups)

6 cups fresh cranberries (24 ounces)

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Finely diced peel (yellow part only) from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin powder (i.e., from a small box of strawberry Jello)

WIN_20151118_171406Directions

Step 1) Bring cranberries, sugar, and water to a boil in a . Boil gently with stirring for 2 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have “popped” (you’ll be able to hear this).

Step 2) While the cranberries are coming to a boil, peel a lemon with a vegetable peeler. This is the easiest way to remove the yellow zest from the white pith. You don’t want the white part – it’s bitter! After you have peeled off the yellow zest, dice the zest with a paring knife.

Step 3) After the cranberries have boiled for 2 minutes, stir in the lemon peel and strawberry gelatin powder. Cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

Step 4) Allow the cranberry sauce to cool in the saucepan for a while, then transfer to a serving bowl. Cranberries may be served at any temperature, but I think they taste best cold (they also set up better, and are less “liquidy” when cold). My preference would be to place the serving bowl full of cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for an hour or two (or even overnight) before serving. Enjoy!

Holiday Spiced Apples

WIN_20150922_082659Oh, don’t be a scrooge. I know it’s a bit early to use the word “holiday,” but if you’re going to make Holiday Spiced Apples for your own holiday buffet or offer festive jars as gifts, you need to plan ahead. This recipe is easy to prepare, but tastes best after the flavors marinate in the jar for at least two weeks.

8 quarts is a nice quantity for gift giving, and will allow you to save a jar or two for yourself! The same recipe can also be canned in 16 pint size jars, if you prefer a smaller size. Or cut the recipe in half for 4 quarts or 8 pints. If you don’t want to can the recipe at all, simply store your spiced apples in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They’ll last for several weeks.

WIN_20150915_144614Ingredients (Makes 8 quarts)

40 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thick

4 cups cold water

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 cups “red hots” cinnamon candies

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon whole allspice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

6 cups sugar

6 cups water

4 1/2 cups vinegar

WIN_20150918_144751Directions

Step 1) Dip peeled apple slices into a bowl containing 4 cups cold water and 1/2 cup lemon juice. This prevents browning. After dipping, set apple slices aside in a large bowl.

Step 2) Combine all remaining ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir often, so that the cinnamon candies don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Step 3) Reduce heat to simmer, and stir until candies are dissolved. Add apple slices.

Step 4) Simmer the apple slices in brine for 2 minutes. Ladle spiced apple slices into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by running a butter knife or a canning tool along the inside of each jar. Wipe the tops of the jars clean with a damp cloth, and top with lids and rims.

Step 5) Process quart jars in a boiling water canning bath for 15 minutes (pints only need 10 minutes). Do not open sealed jars for at least two weeks, to allow the flavors to blend. Enjoy your spiced apples!

Mom’s Poblano and Cilantro Rice

 

WIN_20150921_140829Every summer I grow poblano peppers, many of which find their way to my mother’s house. She works some sort of kitchen magic on those peppers, and they turn into all sorts of wonderful things (some day I’ll get her recipe for Poblano Pepper Lasagna on Crowded Earth Kitchen, but that’s a recipe for another day…)! One such wonderful thing is this Poblano and Cilantro Rice.

I’m not actually sure if this is her original recipe or if she found it elsewhere. – if it’s not, I’ll post an update with an original source for you. Either way, it’s delicious!

Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)

3 teaspoons oil, divided

l/2 cup chopped onions

2 poblano peppers

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

l/2 teaspoon salt

l/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

l/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

l 3/4 cup chicken broth (or use vegetable broth for a vegan option)

1 cup uncooked rice

Directions

Step 1) Roast poblano peppers by either a) broiling for 2 minutes per side or b) holding with tongs over a gas stove burner for 1 minute per side. The peel will bubble and blacken – this is what you want to happen. Place the peppers in a plastic bag for 5 minutes. Peel off the skin (this will be easy) and remove stems and seeds. Chop peppers in large pieces.

[Side note: My mom peels the peppers, which is truly what most people recommend. I roast the peppers but do not remove the blistered peel. I like the little charred flecks in my dishes… and I’m lazy!]

Step 2) Heat 2 teaspoons oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Cook onions and poblanos for 3 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, salt, cilantro and parsley.  Cook just a few seconds to combine.  Remove from heat and puree with l/2 cup of the chicken broth until smooth.

Step 3) Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the same pan over medium heat.  Add the raw rice, and cook 2 minutes.  Add the puree mixture and cook for a minute or two.  Add the remaining chicken broth, stir and cover pan.  Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, without stirring, 10 to 15 minutes til rice is tender.

Step 4) Fluff with a fork and serve.  Garnish with additional cilantro.

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.  🙂

Enjoy!

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!

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 – 2 inch diameter) shapes using cookie cutters. Place one shape on each zucchini slice, so that the pastry slightly overlaps the Chèvre.

Cosmos ® 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.

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