Part I: Kitchen Gadgets to Help You Eat Healthy

Happy New Year, everyone!

If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know that we don’t make impossible to maintain New Year’s resolutions around here. Instead, we are simply pledging to eat a little leaner and a little cleaner in 2017.

Want to join us? First, throw out all of that leftover holiday junk food. Seriously… that half eaten bag of Hershey’s kisses lurking in your pantry? Those partly stale cookies still sitting on a festive tray? Throw. Them. Away.

Then, stock your kitchen with a few items that will help you on your way to eating more mindfully this year. Throughout the month of January, Crowded Earth Kitchen will feature foods and gadgets that we find useful in our healthy eating journey!

scaleToday’s item is a digital kitchen food scale. Why is a kitchen scale #1 on our list of must have gadgets for the New Year? That’s easy. You can’t improve your meals if you don’t understand what you are eating in the first place! It’s super important to understand how many ounces of different foods you are accustomed to eating in one meal, so that you can make realistic changes that are healthy and – here’s the crux, friends – actually sustainable.

Famili Digital Kitchen Food Scale with Tempered Glass Platform, 11lb Capacity By 0.1oz, White

The kitchen scale linked above is only $6.99. Seriously, friends – $6.99 to start you on your journey to more mindful eating and better health. In the coming weeks, I’ll share simple recipes with the number of ounces of each ingredient spelled out for those who are keeping track. Here’s to better heating, and a healthier you (and me)!

Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup

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Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup

In my corner of the world, summer is short! Hot, sunny days are for swimming, reading in the hammock, and playing in the garden. Even with as much as I love to cook, now is not the time for spending hours in the kitchen!

Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup will have you back outside in five minutes flat. That’s right, this savory, cold soup takes mere minutes to prepare, and makes an excellent Continue reading

Ten Minute Rotisserie Chicken Stir-Fry

WIN_20160110_184331This recipe is perfect for busy weeknights when you don’t have a lot of time or energy for cooking, but the thought of one more drive-thru meal is just too depressing to consider. Pick up a precooked rotisserie chicken on your way home from work, and this Ten Minute Rotisserie Chicken Stir-Fry will have you enjoying a wholesome meal in less time than you would have spent sitting in a drive-thru line waiting for a paper bag full of fast food!

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4 cups of rotisserie chicken, shredded or cubed

3 carrots, sliced thin

3 ribs of celery, sliced thin

1 inch piece of ginger, minced Continue reading

Turmeric Springtime Smoothie

WIN_20160213_083023Turmeric contains an amazing substance called curcumin, which is widely recognized as both a powerful antioxidant and a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Finding ways to work turmeric into your diet is an all-around good idea. There’s a catch, though – in order for your body to absorb that valuable curcumin, you need to consume turmeric with either a little black pepper or a bit of fat.

Today’s recipe for a simple Turmeric Springtime Smoothie is designed to introduce turmeric to those unfamiliar with this little root, and contains ingredients designed to aid in curcumin absorption. Did I mention this Turmeric Springtime Smoothie has an awesome tropical flavor? What are you waiting for?

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160213_083246Ingredients (Makes 1 large smoothie)

2 tablespoons freshly grated turmeric root Continue reading

Carrot Soup

WIN_20160124_154246This soup is very easy to prepare, super healthy, and really delicious – what more can I say? The bright orange color, subtle sweetness, and lack of anything suspiciously green means that children will devour this soup! Feel free to adjust the curry powder to suit your taste. If you are feeding a particularly reluctant veggie eater, substitute the parsley garnish for a sprinkle of brown sugar. This one is guaranteed to please!

Ingredients

2 quarts stock (vegetable stock and chicken stock work equally well)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 pounds of carrots, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks

15 ounce can of coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or hot, whichever you prefer)

parsley to garnish

WIN_20160124_145222Directions

Step 1) Bring stock, garlic, onion, and carrots to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer gently until carrots are very soft, approximately 30 minutes.

Step 2) Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Puree carrot mixture with an immersion blender.

Step 3) Stir in coconut milk, black pepper, and curry powder. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Garnish and serve warm. Enjoy your carrot soup!

Ahi Tuna Salad

WIN_20160114_205827My local market sells small, individually sealed, frozen Ahi tuna steaks for a very reasonable price. Ahi tuna (Yellowfin tuna) is high in protein, low in fat, and packed full of B vitamins. While I generally prefer the sustainability and reliably lower mercury levels of small fish such as sardines, the delectable flavor of Ahi tuna is an indulgence I’m not ready to part with entirely. This recipe offers an easy way to enjoy this delicious fish.

A note about slicing tuna for pan searing: If you enjoy tuna a bit pink in the center, slice your tuna steak 1/3 inch thick and sear quickly. I prefer tuna cooked through, and slice my steak into 1/4 inch thick pieces. It’s up to you.

WIN_20160114_205407Ingredients (per person)

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

3 ounce frozen Ahi tuna steak, sliced thin

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons cooked, shelled edamame (soybeans)

1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon chili vinegar

colorful pepper slices to garnish

WIN_20160114_203855Directions

Step 1) Arrange torn lettuce on a serving plate. Sprinkle with cooked, shelled edamame.

Step 2) In a small bowl, whisk together grated ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili vinegar to make a simple vinaigrette. Set aside.

Step 3) Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Make sure bottom of skillet is evenly coated with oil. Add Ahi tuna slices and sear 15 – 30 seconds on each side (if you like the middle pink) or up to 1 minute on each side (if you like the tuna cooked through).

Step 4) Arrange tuna slices over lettuce and edamame. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with pepper slices.

Enjoy your Ahi Tuna Salad!

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!

High Protein Breakfast Smoothie

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It is a fact, at least in the US, that married men have a longer life expectancy than single men. Plenty of married men have joked that this isn’t really true, life just seems longer, but I’ll leave that one alone. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†All kidding aside, I do what I can to look out for my favorite guy’s health, and that begins with breakfast. Favorite Guy isn’t much of a breakfast eater, but he works long days this time of year, and (I think) would benefit from quick, high protein breakfast. This breakfast drink packs upward of 15 grams of protein, and is the latest trick in my sinister plot to keep Favorite Guy healthy, breakfast fan or not!

Ingredients (Makes 1 high protein smoothie)

1 Tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 Tablespoon real peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

1 Tablespoon Chia seeds

1/4 cup frozen berries (any variety, I like blueberries)

1 cup skim milk

Directions

Simply blend all ingredients together until smooth. So simple!

NEW Free Book Giveaway!

PandoraCover

Pandora’s Lunchbox, by Melanie Warner

Contest Ended February 15th

Congratulations to winner Cathy Crockett!

Here are the easy ways to enter to WIN a hardcover copy of this novel:

1) “LIKE” Crowded Earth Kitchen on Facebook! New LIKES between February 1st – 15th count as an entry.

2) “Follow” @CrowdedEarthKit on Twitter! New followers between February 1st – 15th are automatically entered.

3) Post a comment below! Each post counts as one entry. Feel free to enter every day. [Do you have any recommendations for future book giveaways? Tell us, below!]

4) Reblog this post!

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One lucky winner will be contacted when the contest ends!

Review

As teenagers and college students are prone to saying around bites of junk food, ‚ÄúJust, Wow!‚ÄĚ Based upon the author‚Äôs diverse writing background, including two years as a staff reporter for The New York Times, I was hopeful that Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox would be well written and engaging. As a chemist and an educator myself, I was hopeful that this book would find and walk the line between depth of accurate food science detail and clarity of presentation for a wide audience. Melanie Warner delivered on both counts. And delivered, and delivered some more!

Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox is as smartly written as it is impossible to set down. From her personal food ‚Äúexperiments‚ÄĚ (Did this used to be a chicken nugget? Is that facial mask or avocado dip?) to her broadly painted historical overview to the interview vignettes which highlight her journalistic expertise, Melanie Warner illustrates the landscape of modern day processed food in stark detail. Ms. Warner begins by explaining what a processed food is not (‚Äúpasteurized milk‚Ķ. frozen peas, canned beans‚Ķ frozen ground beef shaped into hamburgers‚ÄĚ) before succinctly clarifying what we are really talking about: ‚ÄúAprocessed food is something that could not be made, with the same ingredients, in a home kitchen. Your home kitchen‚ÄĚ (p. xvi).

Prior to reading this book, I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on the ‚Äúno-no‚Äôs‚ÄĚ of processed food. Little did I know! Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox had me rethinking the origins (and wisdom) of my daily multivitamin, the journey of ingredients in my children‚Äôs ‚Äúhealthy‚ÄĚ breakfast cereal, and even my store bought loaf of whole grain bread. As I progressed from chapter to chapter, I was both humbled by how little I knew and inspired to do better for my own health and the health of my family.

Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox confronts the business realities of the food industry, where processing and preservatives allow longer shelf lives and lower costs, corporate shareholders demand high profits over high nutrition, and consumers respond to slick marketing and artificial flavors. Melanie Warner ends her well written book with 216 referenced endnotes, placing well organized facts gently and firmly in the hands of her readers. Read Pandora‚Äôs Lunchbox, and you will ‚Äď to your benefit ‚Äď never experience a trip to the supermarket quite the same way again.

Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal

Three Food Resolutions to Consider

Happy New Year from Crowded Earth Kitchen! Let’s kick off 2016 with a few new and improved food habits, shall we? Not only can these three simple changes improve our health, they can help us save a LOT of money. What’s not to love about that?

picture650#1 ¬†Less soda pop, more¬†tea. The negative health effects of soft drinks, even diet soft drinks, have been well researched. Also, commercial sodas are expensive!¬†Think of all of those SuperBowl commercials… those advertising dollars have to come from somewhere, right? Let’s give this simple swap a try. Our bodies and our wallets will thank us.

#2 ¬†Less drive-thru food, more homemade freezer meals.¬†My weakness is drive-thru burritos, even though I know they are a nutritional nightmare. The wake-up call for me was when I admitted stopping at a drive-thru after pledging a boycott and a friend said, “Of course you’re having trouble stopping – you’re addicted. You’re addicted to the salt, the MSG, and who-knows-what-all in the chemical soup that is Fast Food.” Gross. I know better, and my body deserves better. Time to stock up on home cooked, individually portioned and frozen soups, stromboli, and other meals¬†which thaw and reheat easily.

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Chili freezes and thaws easily!

WIN_20150517_184936#3 ¬†Less brown food, more green food. This one is self-explanatory. Most Western diets are higher than they should be in breaded, fried “brown” food, and lacking in fresh, vegetable-based “green” food. Crowded Earth Ktichen is chock full of vegetable-based recipes for on-the-go snacks, simple lunches, family dinners, and a variety of ethnic dishes.

May 2016 bring you good health, and may your kitchen be a place that makes you happy!

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

 

Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

WIN_20150723_182605Recently, I had a midnight visit from the vegetable fairy. OK, the visitor was my sister, but I’m not exaggerating the late hour.¬†The drive from her home in rural Arkansas to my home Up North¬†is many hours; we worry when she drives. Imagine my delight to find my sister on my porch, home safe and holding big buckets of vegetables. Yes, vegetables… tomatoes mostly, along with quite a bit of okra (recipe coming up soon) and a variety of¬†squash.¬†My sister knows me well – even at midnight, I started working on those buckets right away while everything was fresh, fresh, fresh! This recipe for Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce was a middle-of-the-night creation. It’s delicious. Give it a try!

WIN_20150723_011157Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

2 quarts cherry tomatoes

2 large carrots

1 large red onion

1 large, whole head of garlic

WIN_20150723_1737091 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20150723_181906Step 1) Wash all vegetables. Pierce cherry tomatoes with the tip of a knife and place in a large crockpot. Add carrots and onion. Cook on “low” with lid slightly open (to allow steam to escape) for 12 hours.

Step 2) Slice the top off of the head of garlic, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 1 hour. Allow to cool without opening the foil.

Step 3) Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel and into the crockpot. Add salt and brown sugar. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in basil.

Serve immediately over pasta or vegetables, or ladle into containers and freeze. This recipe freezes well.

Lime Basil Salmon

WIN_20150719_204146Who wants to cook all day when it’s gorgeous outside? Not us. Moving into late summer, we’re all about fast, healthy food here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Today we have a super easy, nutritious¬†dinner for you! All you need are¬†25 minutes and 4 ingredients… ready… set… GO!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

4 salmon fillets (4 – 6 ounces each)

1 lime, sliced very thin

1 tablespoon sugar

8 basil leaves, sliced into thin shreds

WIN_20150719_195331Directions

Step 1) Grease a baking pan with shallow sides. Place 4 lime slices on the bottom of the pan (these add flavor and will help keep your fish from sticking to the pan).

Step 2) Place a salmon fillet on top of each lime slice on the baking pan. Fish fillets should not be touching each other.

Step 3) Dip one side of remaining lime slices in sugar. Place lime slices, sugar side down, on top of salmon.

Step 4) Bake salmon in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Top with basil shreds and serve immediately.

Summer Squash Spaceships

WIN_20150719_193616Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we grow spaceships in the garden. Known to many grown-ups as patty pan squash, “spaceships” are a fun vegetable for children of all ages. We’re combining this crisp, low calorie, nutritious summer squash with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and basil for a classic flavor combination. Go ahead – play with your food!

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Patty Pan Squash

WIN_20150719_192528Ingredients (Makes 4 side dish servings)

1 patty pan squash, approximately 6 inches in diameter, sliced into thin rings

8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced into thin circles

1 ripe tomato, sliced into thin circles

6 – 8 basil leaves

1 long wooden skewer

balsamic vinegar and olive oil to garnish

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Place the first slice of patty pan squash on a plate, and push the flat end of a skewer into the squash. This will serve as your base. Slowly lower slices of tomato, basil, and mozzarella over the pointed end of the skewer and down to the base. Repeat layers until you have used the entire patty pan squash. Top with a triangle “flag” cut from a basil leaf. Serve immediately with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

In The Garden: First Harvests

Moving into late July, my Northern vegetable garden has been growing for almost eight weeks. This means – finally! – the first vegetables are being harvested here at Crowded Earth Kitchen! Weather permitting, we’ll enjoy increasingly bountiful harvesting for the next six to eight weeks. So exciting!

Here’s a peek at some of what’s happening In The Garden:

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Banana peppers, always the first peppers of summer, are bountiful this year.

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Ground cherries, a new garden addition, are coming along nicely.

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The first of the hot peppers are turning red!

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Broccoli heads are about six inches in diameter.

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Zucchini are surprisingly late this year, but are finally growing strong.

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We’ve picked about two quarts of beans so far.

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With a new net to protect raspberries from the birds, we’ve harvested a whole quart of berries so far. Happily, we’ll be able to pick again tomorrow!

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Poblano peppers, typically harvested near the end of summer, are already growing rapidly. So delicious…

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Cucumber vines are just beginning to produce. We hope to begin canning pickles in another week or two.

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The greens bed has exploded with chard and kale. Self-seeded tomato plants are peeking through the chard leaves, and will offer a cherry tomato bonus in September.