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!

 

Shrimp Spring Rolls

WIN_20160502_173224Here’s to second chances! The first time I tried making spring rolls, they were a disaster. I swore I’d never attempt them again. Well, I’ve learned a few things since then and as it turns out, spring rolls really aren’t difficult to make at all! My loss is your gain – thanks to my mistakes, I’ll be able to help you avoid a few pitfalls and make delicious spring rolls on your very first attempt.

Fun fact: spring roll wrappers and vermicelli noodles are made of exactly the same thing… rice flour. Many spring roll recipes Continue reading

Good For You Garlic Dip

WIN_20160201_190240Garlicky, tangy, creamy, delicious – what are you waiting for? Good For You Garlic Dip is fabulous with carrot sticks or tortilla chips. A generous 1/2 cup serving contains over 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of dietary fiber, and a big punch of calcium, iron, and potassium – all for around 100 calories!

WIN_20160201_131225Ingredients (Makes 2 cups) Continue reading

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.

Inside Out Bloody Marys

WIN_20151120_165913

This just might be the easiest item to prepare on your entire party buffet… and the most popular! Who doesn’t love a good Bloody Mary? Sure, the spicy, tomato based vodka beverage is tasty, but everyone knows the best part of a well made Bloody Mary is the garnish. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we ran with that idea and created Inside Out Bloody Marys. The beverage itself is shot sized and potent, accompanied by an assortment of excellent pickled vegetables. Rock On!

Ingredients (Serves 12)

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) spicy Bloody Mary mix, chilled (Preservation and Co. Bloody Mary Mix 32 Oz. Jar)

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) good quality vodka, chilled

1 cup of pickled mushrooms

1 cup of pickled beans (Tabasco Beans, Spicy, 16 Ounce)

1 cup of pickled okra (TABASCO Spicy Pickled Okra 12 oz. jar)

Double (3 ounce) shot glasses

Toothpicks

Directions

OK, friends – this is easy enough to prepare even if you’ve already enjoyed a full size Bloody Mary or three.  😉  Begin by arranging your relishes in the center of a party platter. If you want more than three options, go for it. Try thick slices of dill pickles, ginger pickled carrots, garlic stuffed green olives, rosemary pickled cherry tomatoes, etc.

Next, arrange your shot glasses on the outer edge of the party platter. Fill your shot glasses half full with chilled vodka, and top with chilled Bloody Mary mix. Serve immediately!

 

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

 

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).

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.

WIN_20150606_172512

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:

WIN_20150606_172657

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.

WIN_20150606_173902

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!

Truffle Popcorn

WIN_20150520_121235When I think of indulgent foods, I think of chocolate… champagne… popcorn…

Popcorn?

This, my friends, is not just any popcorn.

While some folks will grudgingly admit to a secret chocolate stash, or a secret bottle of a top shelf liqueur, my confession is a small bottle of truffle oil and an even smaller tin of truffle salt. It’s not that I won’t share… I will, and I do. It’s just that, if I leave these glorious items in plain sight, one of the budding cooks in my house will surely do something unintentionally heinous, like use truffle oil to grease a pan for pancakes, or dump truffle salt on a frozen pizza.  [Shuddering] Hence, the secret location.

WIN_20150520_121431Truffle oil is akin to vanilla flavoring, in that each of these items contains the same primary flavor compound as the real thing, without the hefty price tag. Are the flavors exactly the same? The consensus is “no.” In fact, some celebrity chefs are downright disdainful of truffle oil, and will only cook with true truffles. With the elusive fungus fetching up to $3,600 per pound… and I am NOT joking… I’ll take my chances on the rumored difference in flavor!

Truffle salt, made by infusing salt with bits and specks of black truffle, is less controversial and just as delicious. My little tin of truffle salt was a gift from my husband, purchased at a Seattle-based shop called Sugarpill. It made me smile… my husband knows me well!

WIN_20150520_121310

So… pop up about 8 cups of air popped popcorn. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of truffle oil. Drizzle this fragrant mixture over your popcorn, and sprinkle lightly with truffle salt. You’ll never think of popcorn quite the same way again!

Cherry Popcorn

WIN_20150429_151210This treat is guaranteed to make you smile! With just three ingredients and 20 minutes, you can make a big bowl of fruity goodness that’s just perfect for Game Night or after school snacks. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150429_141106Ingredients (Makes 10 cups)

10 cups air popped popcorn

1 cup cherry juice

1/2 cup light corn syrup

Directions

WIN_20150429_142955Step 1) Spread 10 cups of air popped popcorn evenly on a large, greased baking pan with shallow sides.

Step 2) Bring 1 cup of cherry juice and 1/2 cup of light corn syrup to a boil in a medium saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes, until reduced to one-third of its original volume. Remove from heat.

WIN_20150429_144850Step 3) Drizzle cherry syrup over popcorn and place popcorn in a preheated 250 degree oven. Bake for 5 minutes.

Step 4) Remove popcorn from oven and stir popcorn with a metal spatula (some of the syrup will have sunk to the bottom of the pan; you want that syrup coating the popcorn!). Allow to cool completely before serving.

30 Second Snacks: Jicama Sticks

WIN_20150228_115736

Put the French fries down.  Seriously… nobody needs that in their body.  Instead, try a snack of fresh sliced jicama sticks.  Delicious!

WIN_20150228_114833What is jicama, you ask? It’s one of those veggies you walk right past at the market… it looks like a potato on the outside, looks like a radish on the inside, and tastes a bit like an Asian pear.  My pint size diners call jicama a “fruit vegetable” because it’s sweet.  Even better than the taste is the nutritional punch – jicama is starchy, with enough calories and carbs to make a filling WIN_20150228_115040snack, and offers a LOT of fiber and vitamin C.  Take that, French fries!

Simply cut a jicama in half, trim off the peel, and slice into French fry size sticks. Sprinkle with cinnamon (not sugar, just cinnamon) and enjoy. Sometimes, healthy eating really is this simple!

Heidi’s Paleo Pecans

picture745

I don’t follow a paleo diet myself, but I do try to maintain a welcoming kitchen.  Whether you are paleo, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, or a good ol’ meat-and-potatoes-with-a-slice-of-pie kind of diner, you will find something to enjoy at Crowded Earth Kitchen!  These are for Heidi, but I’m sure she’ll share.  They’re fast and easy, perfect when you need a high protein, not-too-sweet snack.

picture737Ingredients (makes 1 1/2 cups)

1 cup whole, shelled pecans (I used raw, unsalted pecans)

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (or, substitute honey)

1 large egg white

picture7381 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Directions

Step 1) Drizzle maple syrup over pecans in a small mixing bowl.  Mix well to coat evenly.

Step 2) Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom over pecans.  Mix well to distribute spices.

Step 3) In a scrupulously clean bowl, beat egg white (no yolk – not even a speck!) until soft peaks form.

Step 4) Gently fold egg white into pecans.  Gently!  The idea is to coat the pecans with egg whites, while retaining their foamy appearance.  If you stir too long, the beaten egg whites will collapse and liquefy.  Boo.

picture739Step 5) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the pecan mixture on the paper.

Step 6) Bake pecan mixture in a preheated 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring once.  Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Step 7) Enjoy while watching The Flintstones.  Just kidding.