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.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tarts

WIN_20150831_184305Last month we shared a quick and easy recipe for Apple Pecan Tarts, and readers loved them. So did Half Pint! While snacking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Half Pint declared, “I have a great idea! How about if we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but pies instead?”

OK. Here we go. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20150827_093203Ingredients (Makes 32 mini tarts)

1 package of roll-out refrigerated pie crust

1/2 cup of crushed peanuts

1 cup of creamy peanut butter

1 cup of grape jelly

 WIN_20150827_093602Directions

Step 1) Open the package of roll-out refrigerated pie crusts (there are two crusts per package). Instead of rolling them out, squish each crust into a big ball of dough. How fun!

WIN_20150827_093857Step 2) Place a small ball of pie crust dough, about the size of a golf ball, in each well of a mini muffin pan. Push the dough down in the center so that it flattens on the bottom and up the sides of the well. You can use a tart press (shown), a medicine cup, or just your fingers for this.

The Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper 1590

Wilton Recipe Right 24 Cup Mini Muffin Pan

Step 3) Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of crushed peanuts inside of each tart crust. Gently spoon peanut butter and jelly into each tart crust, leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top of each tart.

WIN_20150831_181239Step 4) Bake tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Step 5) Using a butter knife and/or a teaspoon (not your fingers!), remove the tarts from the mini muffin pan while they are still warm. Cool on a wire rack. These tarts freeze well for packing in school lunches!

Wiener Winks

WIN_20150905_124446Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, this particular recipe is heavy with nostalgia. I remember Wiener Winks cooling on Grandma’s kitchen counter on countless occasions throughout my childhood. As soon as they were cool enough to handle, children of all ages (including those “children” with children of their own!) would scramble for a hot dog wrapped in homemade white bread and dipped in either ketchup or BBQ sauce. What could be more American than that?

This week, I taught my little ones how to make Wiener Winks, beginning with homemade white bread dough. I sure had a lump in my throat when a little one exclaimed, “I like making Wiener Winks… it makes me remember [great] Grandma.” I sure do miss her.

Ingredients (Makes 24 Wiener Winks – they freeze well!)

24 precooked hot dogs

2 cups lukewarm (not boiling) water

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup canola oil

6 cups white flour

picture330Directions

Step 1)  Combine sugar and lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in yeast, and allow to sit for a minute or two until the surface of the water appears a bit creamy.

Step 2) Add dry milk, salt, and oil to the picture331yeast mixture.  Stir in flour, one cup at a time, and transfer dough to a floured tabletop.

Step 3) Knead dough for a few minutes until a smooth ball forms.  Add a bit more flour as needed, to prevent sticking.  Transfer dough to a large bowl which has been greased with canola oil.

picture334Step 4) Cover bowl with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size.  This will take about an hour in a warm location, such as an oven that has been warmed to 100 degrees and then turned off.

Step 5) Punch the bowl of risen dough a few times to release air bubbles (this is fun!).   Knead on a floured tabletop for a few minutes.  Divide dough in half.

WIN_20150905_114157Step 6) Roll each half of the dough into a long rectangle on an oiled countertop. Cut each rectangle into 12 strips.

Step 7) Wrap each strip of dough around a hot dog, tucking the ends underneath. Place wiener winks on greased baking sheets. Leave about 2 inches of space between them, as the dough will rise and spread a bit.

KitchenAid KB6NSO15JR Classic Nonstick 10″x15″x1″ Jelly Roll Pan Bakeware

WIN_20150905_114936Step 8) Bake wiener winks in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 – 20 minutes until the dough turns golden brown. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Cool on a wire rack. Serve with ketchup or BBQ sauce.

Back-to-School Snack Mix

WIN_20150826_095155Everyone understands that children will eat foods they have a hand in selecting. This is particularly important when children go back to school! Without a parent nearby to supervise, many snacks and meal items find their way into garbage bins.  The idea of food being thrown away bothers me a LOT, so I make a point of packing school lunches that I am confident my children will actually eat.

Back-to-School Snack Mix is perhaps the easiest, most failsafe item to pack in lunchboxes. By allowing children to select the ingredients (within reason) and fill individual snack bags themselves, you are increasing the odds that food will be consumed rather than tossed away.

WIN_20150826_093635Ingredients (Makes approximately 40 snack-size servings)

6 cups ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (Avoid sugar as the first ingredient!)

2 cups small crackers, pretzels, or pita chips

2 cups seeds or nuts (We used peanuts, but sunflower seeds work well as a nut-free WIN_20150826_095220alternative)

1 cup dried fruit

1 cup chocolate chips or tiny candies

Directions

Simply mix ingredients together in a large bowl, and ask your mini-chefs to fill snack size bags! Double check that each bag is sealed, and store in a large container (a shoebox works well).

Back by Popular Demand! How to Make Your Own Granola Bars

How to Save a Million Dollars a Year

How to Make Your Own Granola Bars!

Granola Bars

OK, making my own granola bars did not save me a million dollars last year.  It may have only been half a million dollars.  Or maybe just enough for an occasional, guilt free (mostly) massage at a fabulous spa.  But more to the point, store bought granola bars are expensive.  They don’t seem that way, as you’re pushing your cart down the cereal isle… $3 or so seems harmless enough, right?  The problem is, many of those $3 boxes only contain 5 bars.  Even that might seem reasonable if everyone was happy with one bar.  I, however, have been blessed with boys.  Growing boys.  Have you seen growing boys raid a kitchen after school?  It’s an awe inspiring, slightly terrifying sight to behold.

My darling boys could obliterate a whole shelf of granola bars in only the time it would take them to tear through all of that wasteful packaging.  If I continued buying granola bars from the supermarket, I was going to need to supplement my income by renting out my boys for farm labor.  They didn’t seem too keen on the idea, so Option B required me to create an easy, low cost granola bar that would pass muster with the kids.  Three different versions became fast favorites.  I hope you enjoy them!  Don’t forget to post your comments below!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part I:  Apple Cinnamon
I make a lot of jellies and jams (recipes coming soon!).  Occasionally, a batch of jelly or jam won’t turn out quite right – it’s either overcooked so that it’s too thick to spread, or undercooked so that it resembles syrup.  Because I’m too frugal to just throw them away, my “jars of mistakes” have been taking up shelf space, waiting to be put to good use.  Well, it’s Good Use Time!  You can use any apple jelly for this recipe, whether a store-bought version or a homemade version, even if it’s underwhelming on its own.
Combine dry goods and set aside:Dry Ingredients
3 cups of whole oats
1 cup of high fiber cereal
3/4 cup of diced, dried apples
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamonButter and Jelly
Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:
¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)
1 cup apple jelly

Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.  picture055

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage.

Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part II: Wild Blueberry

Two summers ago, my family spent a week on the Maine Coast (beautiful… highly recommend!).  Kitchen goofball that I am, I managed to squeeze my canning pot, canning utensils, and a case of half pint canning jars into the back of the family minivan.  I was on a quest to purvey enough of the fabled wild Maine blueberries to make 12 jars of jam, and I succeeded… sort of.

I overcooked the jam.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  There may have been a few words uttered that would, ah, make a Sunday School teacher blush.  But… Crowded Earth Kitchen wastes NOTHING!  Despite having no earthly idea how I would salvage those blueberries, I packed my 12 jars of crystallized blueberry “rock” into the van and brought them home.

You may use any blueberry jam for this recipe (I salvaged mine by soaking the jars in scalding hot water).  You might even get wild and crazy and try using another variety of jam.  If you create your own version, please let me know how it turns out!

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 1/2 cups of whole oats

1 cup of high fiber cereal

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

1 cup blueberry jam

Blueberry Bars Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Version III: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip 

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 cups of whole oats

¾ cup of high fiber cereal (any variety will suffice)

1 cup of chopped pretzels (if you like salt) or crispie rice cereal (if you don’t)

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

½ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup honey (or maple syrup as a vegan substitute)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars  Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.

Then, press mini chocolate chips into the top of the granola bars (I used two tablespoons; use more if you don’t mind the sugar, or don’t use them at all). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

Zucchini Chips

WIN_20150809_181951When zucchini chips are this easy to make, low in fat, high in fiber, and taste so amazing, why would anyone buy bagged potato chips? I have no idea! With zucchini in full season, now is the perfect time to try zucchini chips. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150808_135851 - CopyIngredients (Makes 1 large bowl)

1 large or 2-3 small zucchini

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt or your favorite salt blend (I like Penzey’s “Mitchell Street Steak Seasoning”)

WIN_20150808_135930 - CopyDirections

Step 1) Wash zucchini and slice into 1/8 inch thick slices. You can use a waffle-edged slicer if you have one (see photo), or just slice with a knife.

Step 2) Place zucchini slices on food dehydrator trays. If you don’t have a food WIN_20150808_140900 - Copydehydrator, consider investing in one! They start at around $20, and offer a GREAT way of preserving summer fruits and vegetables (especially if your freezer space is limited)!

Step 3) Use a pastry brush or napkin to lightly coat zucchini slices with coconut oil (or olive oil). Sprinkle zucchini slices with salt, and dehydrate for 12 hours or until crispy. Store in an airtight container.

Prawn Chips (Easy!)

WIN_20150606_175130

So, you’re having a casual get-together and want to serve simple snacks, but you want to serve something that will make a bit more of a conversation starter than a bowl of pretzels. Try prawn chips instead.

Prawn chips? Prawns, like… shrimp? Yes.

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I bought this little box of uncooked prawn chips at my local Asian market for a dollar and change – very economical! The ingredients, and preparation instructions, are quite simple. Here’s a photo of the back of the box:

WIN_20150606_172606

When you open the box, the contents might surprise you. Uncooked prawn chips look like, well, little pieces of plastic:

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Don’t be alarmed. Simply pour your favorite cooking oil into a frying pan, so that the oil is about 1/2 inch deep. Coconut oil with a few drops of sesame oil added for flavor works well. Add the chips, a few at a time, to very hot oil:

WIN_20150606_173331

After only a few seconds, the chips will crackle and “fluff up,” taking on a foamy appearance. When that happens, scoop the chips out of the oil and place them on paper napkins to drain and cool.

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Only half of the box was used to make the big bowl of chips pictured above. Enjoy the crispy goodness of prawn chips the next time you are looking for a no-fuss snack!