Gulf Coast Shrimp Salad

Crowded Earth Kitchen is spending some time on the Gulf Coast along the Florida panhandle, and the seafood here is FABULOUS. Fresh from the dock, seafood lovers can procure an impressive variety of fish, oysters, crawfish, and shrimp. We’ve opted to steam large, whole brown shrimp – a staple here along the Gulf – and turn them into a healthy salad, Florida style!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound fresh, whole brown shrimp

2 Florida oranges (oranges sold as “juice oranges” are the best!)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 head romaine lettuce, finely sliced

4 cups fresh spinach, washed

2 avocados, diced

Fresh, whole brown shrimp

Directions

Step 1) Squeeze juice from one orange. Combine juice with soy sauce and minced garlic. Set aside.

Step 2) Place shrimp in a steamer basket above boiling water. Steam shrimp for 6 minutes or until pink. Drain immediately, rinse in cold water, and set in freezer to chill for 15 minutes.

Step 3) After 15 minutes, wash remaining orange well and cut in half. Then, cut each half of the orange into very thin slices.

Step 4) Arrange romaine lettuce and spinach on individual serving plates. Top with thin orange slices and avocado. Drizzle with the orange/soy/garlic dressing.

Step 4) Remove shrimp from freezer. Arrange cooked Gulf shrimp over each salad and serve immediately!

Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup

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‘Tis the season of sugary snacks, tipsy drinks, and uber delicious, fat-laden appetizers. I love it, the kids love it, and frankly I’m skeptical of anyone who claims NOT to enjoy the nutritional free for all that tends to be December.

BUT… sometimes we need a break from the festive dining, a healthy and hearty “reset.” Enter Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup.

This soup is perfect “10” nutritionally. Simply put, there is nothing in this recipe that ISN’T good for you! The lentils themselves are chock full of fiber, protein, and iron. Carrots, greens, and salsa veggies offer a rainbow of vitamins and minerals. In earlier posts, we’ve discussed the powerful anti-angiogenic properties of onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cumin. There’s a whole lot to love in this soup… and it tastes terrific!

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Dried Red Lentils

Ingredients (Makes 1 big pot)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 carrots (2 orange and 2 yellow, if possible), chopped

1 tablespoon grated frozen turmeric root (or 1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric)

1 tablespoon grated frozen ginger root (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger)

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Grated Frozen Turmeric Root

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 3/4 cups dried red lentils

6 cups water

2 cups salsa

2 cups packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.), chopped

Plain Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and parsley to garnish

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Directions

Step 1) Saute the first eight ingredients in a large stockpot over low-medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Add lentils and water. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 – 40 minutes or until lentils and carrots are almost tender. If soup becomes too thick, add additional water, 1/2 cup at a time.

Step 3) During last five minutes of cooking, add salsa and chopped greens. Stir well.

Step 4) Ladle soup into serving bowls. Top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

Sugarplums

If you’re familiar with the Christmas classic, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, you’ll remember these lines:

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads

But what on earth is a “sugarplum?” Simply put, it’s an old fashioned candy made very simply out of dried fruits and nuts.  If you’re looking for something fun to bring to a holiday party or a family dinner, give these a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Ingredients

Ingredients (Makes 24, 1 inch sugarplums)

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried fruit (any combination of raisins, dates, or figs)

1 cup shelled, unsalted nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (or substitute cinnamon)

2 tablespoons honey

Dried, shredded coconut and/or course sugar crystals for rolling

Directions

Step 1) Combine all dried fruit, nuts, and cardamom in a small blender or food processer and blend until smooth.

Step 2) Drizzle in honey and combine until mixture holds together.

Step 3) Roll mixture into 1 inch balls, then roll in coconut or sugar to coat.

Step 4) Let sugarplums sit out uncovered for several hours, to firm up a bit.

Step 5) Sugarplums may be stored in an airtight container for one week, or frozen for one month.

Bonus

Are you entertaining folks on paleo diets? As long as you roll these in unsweetened coconut (no sugar crystals), sugarplums are a paleo treat!

Brandied Pears

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Pears.  Brandy.  Pears preserved in brandy, in you very own kitchen.  Fa la la la la, la la la la.

If this isn’t just about the perfect homemade holiday gift, I don’t know what is.  Brandied pears are simple and quick – perfect for the busy holiday season.  A bottle of lower shelf brandy will set you back $15 or so, but divided among 8 gift jars, that’s less than $2 per jar.  You may even have a bit left over.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it up, somehow.

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Ingredients (makes 8 pint jars)

6 pounds of firm pears

4 cups of brandy

8 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups of sugar

4 cups of water

Directions

Step 1) Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Simmer over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Step 2) Peel and core pears.  Slice as desired.  I prefer 1/2 inch thick slices, as shown in the jars above.  If you prefer to leave your pears quartered or even halved, that’s fine.

Step 3) Pack pears into sterilized, pint size canning jars.  Pack the jars as tightly as you can without mashing the pears!

Step 4) Add 1/2 cup of brandy and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to each jar.

Step 5) Finish filling each jar with your sugar and water mixture, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

Step 6) Poke a spoon or other tool into the bottom of each jar to remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims clean, and top with lids and bands.

Step 7) Process jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, and check seals before giving as gifts!

These brandied pears will taste best if allowed to sit in their sealed jars for a few weeks before opening.  Serve them over ice cream, in crepes, or right out of the jar as part of a festive buffet.  Happy Holidays!

Level Up Your Gingerbread Game with Speculaas Wreath Cookies!

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If you enjoy a classic gingerbread cookie, I know you’ll adore these speculaas wreaths! Speculaas are Dutch spiced cookies in a wide variety of shapes, the most common of which are better known as windmill cookies. Whether you cut them into wreaths or windmills, these delightful cookies get their signature flavor from a spice blend called Speculaaskruiden. It’s easy to blend yourself (see recipe below). In a pinch you can substitute pumpkin pie spice mix, though the flavor will be slightly different.

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Ingredients (makes about 36 wreath cookies)

1 cup real butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Speculaaskruiden spice mix (see recipe, below)

For the icing:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 drops green food coloring

Green sugar crystals (for decorating)

Small cinnamon candies (for decorating)

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Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Speculaaskruiden.  Mix by hand; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Chill dough for at least one hour before rolling 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut dough into wreath shapes, and carefully transfer to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 4) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Step 5) While cookies are cooling, blend together butter, powdered sugar, and milk to make icing. Spoon 1/4 cup of icing into a plastic sandwich bag, and snip a tiny corner from the bag to make a homemade pastry bag. You should be able to easily squeeze icing from the bag and onto each cookie wreath, as shown above. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more milk. If the icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Step 6) After piping icing onto your cookie wreaths, sprinkle them with green sugar crystals. Place a cinnamon candy on each wreath. Beautiful!

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 Speculaaskruiden Spice Mix (makes enough for three batches of cookies)

Stir together (if using powdered spices) or grind together in a coffee grinder (if using whole spices):

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon star anise

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

No-Bake Chocolate Coconut Cookies


win_20161202_165101My mother makes these delightful bites of holiday goodness every December… they are a Christmastime comfort food here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. There is no flour in these cookies, making them perfect for friends who eat mostly paleo but are still game for an occasional cheat. No-bake cookies are also perfect for those inevitable occasions when school-age children announce “Tomorrow’s the day I have to bring treats for ____. Sorry I forgot to tell you!”

Ingredients (Makes 3 dozen)

1   6 oz. pkg. of semi sweet chocolate chips

l/3 cup butter

16 large marshmallows

l/2 teas vanilla

1 cup coconut

2 cups rolled quick oats

Super Easy Directions

Melt butter, chocolate and marshmallows in large pot over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally.  Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.  With buttered hands, roll into balls.  Place on waxed paper lined pan and chill.

That’s all there is to it! Enjoy your cookies, and don’t forget your charity cookbooks for holiday gift giving!

Global Recipe Project Cookbook!

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100% of net profits from the sale of this cookbook will benefit not-for-profit organizations which feed people as a central part of their mission!

The Global Recipe Project was made possible by cooks and food bloggers from around the world who generously shared recipes, stories, and photos for this book.

Pick up a copy from Amazon to support our mission and bring delicious, global cuisine into YOUR kitchen today! Here’s a link:
The Global Recipe Project

Shopping for a crowd? Purchase five books directly from Crowded Earth Kitchen to receive free shipping AND a sixth book absolutely free! Message us below for details.

Wisconsin Cream Puffs

It’s time to make cream puffs again! The Wisconsin State Fair is cancelled this year, which is all the MORE reason to recreate these tasty treats in your own kitchen. Enjoy!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

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Wisconsin State Fair opens this week, and of the many indulgent foods available at the fair, cream puffs reign supreme. On average, Wisconsin State Fair sells… wait for it… 350,000 cream puffs during the 11 day event.

Cream puffs are stone simple to make. Really. They fall into my favorite baking category, “looks complicated but is really easy!” Go on, play in the kitchen for a little while, and dazzle your friends with an amazing dessert at your next backyard cookout!

WIN_20160226_124952 Dough after eggs are mixed in

Ingredients (Makes 30 small or 10 “Wisconsin State Fair sized” cream puffs)

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour

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Spiced Cherry Jam

IMG_2161The season for fresh cherries at the market is absurdly brief. When they appear, I buy a few extra pounds for a big batch of Spiced Cherry Jam. The kids like to help, which I welcome – learning canning and preserving methods is a great home school lesson! Cheerful bright red jars of this jam taste like a burst of summer throughout the winter months. Enjoy!

IMG_2157Ingredients (Makes 10 half-pint jars)

10 cups fresh pitted cherries Continue reading

Italian Marinated Eggplant

It should come as no surprise that Crowded Earth Kitchen features at least one or two new eggplant recipes every summer. When you emphasize “fresh” and “frugal” in your kitchen, eggplant has a way of emerging as a frequent star. This summer, as these lovely purple beauties make their way from our garden to our table, we’re trying something new. Italian Marinated Eggplant is best served cold as part of an antipasto platter, with a side of crusty bread, or as a salad ingredient with fresh mozzarella (shown above). Enjoy!

eggplant1Ingredients (Makes 1 quart)

1 large or 3 small eggplant Continue reading

Great-Grandma’s Corn Relish

Sharing a true golden oldie from the 1930s… this recipe is great alongside a roast or added to a pot of chili. Enjoy!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

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My Grandpa Fred grew up enjoying this corn relish on the family dinner table. He remembers it fondly. I found his mother’s corn relish recipe in a treasure box of family recipes and, since my Grandpa is just about the coolest guy around, I’m happy to make a batch just for him whenever fresh sweet corn is available. I love you, Grandpa!

*Note: I’ve scaled this recipe down to a manageable size, as Great Grandma made a LOT of corn relish at once! Original quantities (which I occasionally prepare) are 3 times the quantities listed below.

Ingredients (Makes 8 pints)

8 ears of fresh sweet corn

2 onions

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup vinegar

2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 teaspoon mustard seed

1/3 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

Step 1) Working carefully, use a sharp knife to slice the kernels from…

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Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice

IMG_2139For some reason, fried rice has always sounded complicated. It’s not. The trick is to cook the rice the day before and refrigerate it overnight. It is much easier to stir-fry cold, day old rice. Trust me on this, and dive into this delicious, Thai inspired treat!

IMG_2138Ingredients (Serves 4 with leftovers)

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

2 cups Jasmine rice, cooked to package instructions and refrigerated overnight

1 cup diced, fresh pineapple Continue reading

Easy Zucchini Boats

IMG_2135Delicious, very easy to prepare, and uses up a few famously prolific garden zucchini – what’s not to love about Zucchini Boats? Medium sized zucchini, 10 to 12 inches long and about 3 inches in diameter, work well for Zucchini Boats. If you happen to find a “baseball bat” sized zucchini lurking in your garden (it happens), you can use it in this recipe, just add a few minutes to the baking time.

IMG_2133Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 medium sized zucchini, halved lengthwise and seeds scooped out Continue reading

Chicken Noodle Spring Rolls

IMG_2131During the height of summer, fresh spring rolls are a refreshing afternoon lunch. Spring roll wrappers used to be tricky to find, but as Asian cuisines have increased in popularity throughout the US, these wrappers have become readily available in supermarkets and online. This recipe uses other easy to find ingredients as well. For the cooked chicken, either a can of chicken or part of a supermarket rotisserie chicken will work. For the noodles, feel free to experiment! I really enjoy Japanese sweet potato noodles, but a cooked package of instant ramen noodles will work just fine.  Have fun!

Ingredients (Makes 12 Spring Rolls)

IMG_212712 round spring roll wrappers (rice paper)

1 cup cooked chicken cut into small cubes

3 ounces cooked noodles cut into 2 inch pieces

1 cup shredded cabbage

1 large carrot, grated

1/2 cup crushed peanuts

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons chili vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1 inch piece of ginger, finely grated

Directions

IMG_2126Step 1) In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the five sauce ingredients. Fold in chicken, noodles, cabbage, carrot, and peanuts.

Step 2) Place about 1 inch of water in a 12 inch skillet and bring to a simmer (not a boil) over medium heat.

Step 3) When water is hot but not boiling, place ONE spring roll wrapper in the water for 2 SECONDS (really… just two seconds). Use a spatula to gently remove the spring roll wrapper from the water and place it on a wood cutting board. Gently smooth out the wrapper; a few wrinkles are fine. If parts of the wrapper are still hard, you can dip the wrapper in water again for an extra second.

Step 4) Place 1/4 cup of filling in a small rectangle near the center of the wrapper.

WIN_20160502_170716Step 5) Fold the sides of the spring roll wrapper over the short sides of the rectangle of filling, as shown. Then, gently roll the spring roll from top to bottom, sealing the filling inside of the spring roll. The wrapper will stick to itself and form a nice seal.

Step 6) That’s it! Repeat steps 3 – 5 until you run out of filling.

Spring rolls are a FRESH food and are best enjoyed within a few hours of rolling (store in the refrigerator if not enjoying immediately). Try dipping your spring rolls in soy sauce, plum sauce, or peanut satay sauce – delicious! Spring rolls are inherently low in fat and are gluten free. You could also omit the chicken and add some shredded greens for your vegan friends. Have fun!

Moitié – Moitié Fondue

Like many Crowded Earth Kitchen readers, I am dreaming of getting back on an airplane. While we wait, let’s revisit Switzerland and make a scrumptious fondue!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Fondue at Restaurant des Antiquaires in Old Town Geneva

Ah,  you knew it was coming… the fondue post from Switzerland.  Going to Switzerland without recreating a fabulous fondue at home would be like, well, I don’t know – it simply isn’t done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My Favorite Restaurant in Old Town Geneva

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Fondue Options at Restaurant des Antiquaires

Fondue options abound in Switzerland.  If you happen to find yourself in Old Town Geneva (lucky you!), don’t miss Restaurant des Antiquaires.  Their whole menu is fabulous (my travel companion and I visited more than once), and their fondue options are simply sublime.

Moité – moité means “half and half,” and refers to the blend of two cheeses found in many Swiss fondues.  Typically, the two cheeses are Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois, although Emmentaler (a high quality version of the medium-hard, hole filled “Swiss” cheese) is sometimes paired with the  Gruyère instead.

A few notes on Swiss…

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