Microwave Potato Chips

chips1Our garden produced a nice crop of lovely little purple potatoes this year. The insides are ringed with beautiful shades of violet, but the small size of these potatoes makes them impractical to peel. Voila! Potato chips! What a simple way to show off the color of these heirloom veggies!

On our Kitchen Gadgets page, we’ve provided a link to an affordable gadget which makes potato chips (oil free) in the microwave. It works really well, but makes small batches. We have a LOT of potatoes, and needed to find a way to process larger batches of chips. Aha! This worked like a charm:chips3

Emson Bacon Wave, Microwave Bacon Cooker

Yes, friends, an “As Seen On TV” microwave bacon maker, no joke! We used a mandolin to slice potatoes really thin, sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt, and arranged them in the bacon maker as shown:chips2

We microwaved our chips for approximately 6 minutes (until the chips started to brown). Done! So simple! What a great way to enjoy the high fiber goodness of garden fresh potatoes, without adding fat.

PS – this same technique works for vegetable chips made from yams, beets, carrots, and parsnips. Stay tuned!

 

Rum Caramel Corn

WIN_20160528_161718While I look forward to summertime and love my garden, I’ll confess to enjoying a bit of air conditioning and an indoor breeze under a ceiling fan after playing in the dirt under the hot sun. I’ll also confess to feeling hungry after working in the garden, and unfortunately there’s nothing to harvest from the garden just yet!

Today I sated my post-gardening sweet tooth with this easy recipe for Rum Caramel Corn. I used a banged up old pot to cook the caramel. Boiling caramel may (or may not) cause a harmless, slight discoloration inside of a pan. To clean the pan in which you boiled the caramel, here’s an easy tip: fill the pan about 2 inches deep with water, and bring the water to a boil on the stove. When the water is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the pan. Immediately cover the pan and remove from heat. After about 15 minutes, when the water is still warm but comfortable to touch, scrub the inside of the pan. Voila! The caramel residue will wash away.

WIN_20160528_155729Ingredients (Makes 15 cups)

15 cups air popped popcorn

1/2 cup real butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons light molasses

1 teaspoon rum flavoring

WIN_20160528_160950Directions

Step 1) Combine butter, brown sugar, light corn syrup, and molasses in an old saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Allow caramel mixture to boil gently for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in rum flavoring.

WIN_20160528_161707Step 3) Spread popcorn on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Carefully drizzle the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Use a metal spatula to gently lift the coated popcorn. This spreads the caramel onto more of the popcorn, and also helps to prevent sticking.

Enjoy when cool!

 

Kids in the Kitchen: Mixed-Up Cereal Bars

WIN_20160116_123407Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we don’t buy bright colored, sugary cereal. The problem is that Santa Claus is a mischievous guy, and leaves Mom-Disapproved cereals under the Christmas tree. The kiddos LOVE this, and for a few weeks they are able to indulge in occasional bowls of silly breakfast cereals. By late winter, this Mom’s patience with Santa has worn thin, and it’s time to get rid of the neon colored breakfast food.

This recipe gives the pint size cooks in your kitchen a fun opportunity to an after school snack out of those bits and specks of breakfast cereal lurking in your pantry. These cereal bars are most fun when you let the kids mix cereals. Why should Rice Crispies get to have all of the fun?

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160116_121312Ingredients (Makes 12 bars)

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups mini marshmallows

4 cups mixed-up cereal (at least two varieties)

Directions

WIN_20160116_122914Step 1) Melt butter and marshmallows together in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Remove saucepan from heat and stir in mixed-up cereal.

Step 3) Transfer mixture to a greased pie dish. Using wet hands, press the mixture firmly into the pie dish. Allow mixture to cool and firm up on the counter.

Step 4) Cut into squares or wedges using a wet knife, OR place the pie dish in the freezer for about 30 minutes and cut into squares while partially frozen.

If you plan to pack these Mixed-Up Cereal Bars in school lunches, wrap them individually in waxed paper.

Dry Roasted Pepitas

WIN_20151001_205630Why do so many people stop roasting pumpkin seeds after Halloween? I have no idea. Seeds make a delicious and filling snack throughout the winter! Even better, they’re an excellent source of zinc, vitamin E, and fiber. In order to preserve their nutritional punch, pumpkin seeds or “pepitas” must be cooked quickly. The easiest way to accomplish this is with dry roasting in a saute pan. A saute pan? I suppose that’s cheating a bit, but since it saves time, let’s go for it!

WIN_20151001_130124 - CopyIngredients (Makes about 1 cup)

1 large, speckled pumpkin (look for a striped pumpkin with streaks of green, if you want colorful green seeds)

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of sugar

Directions

Step 1) Scoop insides out of pumpkin, saving the pumpkin flesh for other uses!

Step 2) Separate pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and wash WIN_20151001_130208them thoroughly. Pat dry with a clean towel.
Step 3) Place pumpkin seeds in a nonstick saute pan and saute over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue heating and stirring for approximately 5 minutes, until a few seeds begin to turn a golden color and the air is fragrant with the aroma of roasted seeds.

Step 4) Sprinkle pumpkin seeds with salt and sugar. Saute for a few seconds longer, then remove pan from heat. Allow pumpkin seeds to cool in the pan. WIN_20151001_141106Enjoy when cool.

Dry Roasted Pepitas freeze well in an airtight container. To enjoy at a later date, allow the seeds to thaw at room temperature. Then, warm in a saute pan before serving.

Chocolate Banana Bread

WIN_20151030_185933This Chocolate Banana Bread is absolutely luscious. Dense and full flavored, this bread works equally well as a breakfast food and a dessert. The trick is to use very ripe bananas. If the skins aren’t black, wait another day or two. Any green on the skin? Don’t even think about it – even a speck of green means that your bananas aren’t ripe at all, let alone ripe enough for this recipe. Patience, friends. Patience.

WIN_20151030_173516Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves, approximately 12 slices per loaf)

4 very ripe bananas (skins should be black)

2 eggs

1/2 cup cooking oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 small (3.9 oz) packages instant chocolate pudding

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups flour

1/4 cup milk

WIN_20151030_173902Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour two loaf pans. Set aside.

Step 2) Use a pastry cutter or two forks to thoroughly mash bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, oil, sugar, and almond extract. Mix well.

Step 3) Stir in chocolate pudding mix, baking powder, salt, and flour. Mixture will be very stiff.

Step 4) Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until chocolate banana bread mixture spreads easily with your mixing spoon (more like brownie batter, less like cookie dough). I added a total of 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup of milk. You may need a bit more or less, depending upon the size and ripeness of the bananas you used.

Step 5) Spread chocolate banana bread batter into loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 6) Cool loaves on a wire rack and enjoy!

WIN_20151030_190245

Fun Variation: Feeling creative? Try experimenting with pudding mix in other flavors. You might try vanilla pudding mix with vanilla extract instead of the almond extract. Or, you might try pistachio pudding with a few coarsely chopped pistachio nuts sprinkled onto the top of each loaf just before baking. If you try a variation on this Chocolate Banana Bread recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy baking!

 

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!

BBQ Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

WIN_20150902_181152When you carve Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns, don’t throw those seeds away! Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, iron, Vitamin E,  and a wide variety of minerals. This year we’re doing something a bit different with our pumpkin seeds, and roasting them in a medley of spices designed to impart the flavors of a barbeque dry rub. Delicious!

Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)

Seeds from 2 large pumpkins, washed well

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or use olive oil)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon ground thyme

1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Zing Spices Ultimate Starter Spice Gift Set, Multi-spice Packs, Must Have for Every Kitchen, 32 varieties.

WIN_20150902_172912Directions

Step 1) Coat a large baking sheet (the kind with shallow sides) with oil, and sprinkle pumpkin seeds evenly onto the pan. If possible, pumpkin seeds should be in a single layer.

Step 2) Combine spices in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle spice mixture over pumpkin seeds.

Step 3) Roast pumpkin seeds in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning pumpkin seeds over with a spatula after 10 minutes.

Allow to cool completely before snacking; the insides of pumpkin seeds can be HOT! Roasted pumpkin seeds store well in airtight lunch bags, and can also be frozen.