Springtime Tea Party

 

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Recently, I hosted a Springtime Tea Party. It was great fun! If you have a few friends you haven’t seen in a while (don’t we all?), consider inviting them over for a simple tea. Here are a few suggestions!

First, don’t worry about being matchy-matchy.

I used an inexpensive tablecloth to cover an old, scratched up kitchen table. It looked juuussst fine, and didn’t require a big investment. My little fruit bowls are completely different from my plates, and yet they worked together nicely. Those little dishes of chocolate? Mismatched! The napkins? Borrowed from my mother! You get the idea.

Second, if you don’t want to cook from scratch, don’t.

A tea party does not require hours of slaving away in the kitchen. If you don’t feel like spending prep time in your kitchen, here is a “recipe” for a fuss-free tea party:

Boil a pot of water, and steep a pot of tea! Offer cream and sugar on the side.

Break one or two high-quality chocolate bars into bite size pieces, and arrange the pieces in a small serving dish.

Layer a few cups of berries in a pretty bowl. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Purchase a tray of cookies or scones. My local Aldi offers a surprising variety of delicious cookies at very reasonable prices!

gazpachoThinly slice a loaf of artisan bread from your local bakery. Spread each slice with butter or cream cheese, and top with thin slices of cucumber or prosciutto. Delicious!

Feel like cooking?

If you’d like to prepare a dish or two from scratch, here are a few suggestions:

croque ingredientsSpringtime Gazpacho served in little tea cups makes a lovely chilled starter!

Mini Croque Monsieurs make lovely tea sandwiches!

Rainbow Shortcake makes a beautiful, individually plated dessert!

 

 

rainbow shortcake

Life is short. Enjoy your friends!

Free Book Giveaway: Comment to WIN!

PromiseLodge-200x300Promise Lodge, by Charlotte Hubbard

Contest Ends June 15th

Comment to Win!

Every comment posted to Crowded Earth Kitchen between now and June 15th counts as one entry. Join the conversation – we look forward to hearing from you!

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Promise Lodge is a delightful novel. In Promise Lodge, Charlotte Hubbard spins a tale of sisterhood, independence, empowerment, and faith as three Amish women set out to establish a new community. At Promise Lodge, community members will be free to blossom, regardless of their age or gender. Readers will fall in love with the vision and determination of Mattie, Rosetta, and Christine. Readers will cheer for a second chance to unfold between Deborah and Noah, and will fond themselves turning over the wisdom of Preacher Amos as they eagerly turn each page.

Readers who like to dabble in the kitchen will be delighted to know that Charlotte Hubbard includes mouthwatering recipes from Promise Lodge at the end of the book! Happy Reading… and Happy Cooking!

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Can’t wait for the contest to end? You can purchase your own copy of Promise Lodge right here!

Excellent Beef Stock

onion soup

Excellent Beef Stock can be used to create awesome meals such as French onion soup!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we are encouraging every cook (well, every non-vegan cook) to master the simple craft of making an excellent pot of beef stock. Quality beef stock sold in gourmet shops is delicious, but outrageously expensive. Those supermarket cans of stocks and broths? Well, read the label. Less expensive than their gourmet shop counterparts, those cans are over-salted and still overpriced. Some commercial food manufacturers are shameless enough to add caramel coloring to their beef stocks and broths. That’s right… the same artificial coloring added to soft drinks is added to beef stock!

Some recipes for beef stock call for the use of whole vegetables (i.e., a few carrots, or a whole onion). We think that’s just a little too precious. The fact is, you get the same flavor from vegetable scraps and peels, so why use up perfectly good vegetables making beef stock? We’re using peels (see below), and are sure you can find a good use for the peeled veggies themselves.  :) Let’s get started!

WIN_20160430_104540Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

3 pounds beef bones (ask the butcher at your local market – bones are always available)

Peel and outer layer of Continue reading

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

Easy Pulled Pork

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This is so easy, I don’t know why we haven’t made this a million times. If you happen by for dinner in the near future, odds are we’ll be feeding you pulled pork. Once you try a bite, you won’t mind at all that I didn’t fuss over your dinner! In fact, I think you’ll go home and make a big pot yourself.  :)

Ingredients (Makes 1 big ol’ pot of pulled pork, enough for 12 – 16 hearty sandwiches)

Boneless pork loin roast (about 3 pounds)

1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/2 cup white vinegar

For the brine:

2 cups water

2 cups ice cubes

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

Directions

Step 1) Bring water, salt, brown sugar, and whole mustard seeds to a boil in a large pot. Stir well to make sure all of the brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add ice cubes to the brine, and stir to melt the cubes and cool the brine.

Step 2) Place the pork roast in a gallon size ziploc bag, and set the bag in a pan with sides (in case the bag leaks). Carefully ladle brine into the ziploc bag to cover the pork roast, and close the bag. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Step 3) After 24 hours, remove the pork roast from the brine and place the roast in a baking pan with a lid.

Step 4) Whisk together 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup BBQ sauce. Pour this mixture over the pork roast, and place the lid on the baking pan.

Step 5) Place the covered pork roast in a preheated 300 degree oven for 6 hours. Really, 6 hours.

Step 6) After 6 hours, remove the lid from the baking pan and pull the pork roast apart with forks. This will be very, very easy! Serve with rolls and coleslaw. Enjoy!

Korean Garaetteok

WIN_20160424_142917Korean Garaetteok, a type of rice noodle, is fast becoming a staple freezer item here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. These noodles are fun to remove from the freezer on busy weeknights and use to quickly jazz up dinner. Often, I add a cup or two of frozen Korean Garaetteok into soups during the last 15 minutes of simmer time. Occasionally, I’ll allow a batch of Korean Garaetteok to thaw on the countertop before stir-frying in sesame oil for about five minutes. Stir-fried Garaetteok can be tossed with vegetables for a savory side dish, or lightly coated with honey and crushed peanuts for a fun dessert. Enjoy this versatile item!

WIN_20160424_122115Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups rice flour

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions

Step 1) Combine rice flour, boiling water, salt and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

WIN_20160424_122945Step 2) Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional 2 minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Transfer rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Knead with your knuckles (pressing into the mixture) for 5 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. If mixture is too hot for your hands, try pressing into the mixture with the bottom of a mason jar instead.

WIN_20160424_125954Step 4) Grease countertop with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Divide dough into 4 pieces, and use your hands to roll each piece on the greased countertop into a 12 inch length.

Step 5) Set the lengths of dough aside for one hour, uncovered. This will dry the dough slightly, allowing it to slice easier.

Step 6) After 1 hour, slice the dough on a diagonal into bite-size pieces approximately 1/2 inch thick. From this point, do one of the following:

  • Add your Korean Garaetteok to a pot of soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Delicious!
  • Stir-fry your Korean Garaetteok in sesame oil for about 5 minutes, until crispy on the outside. Toss with cooked veggies for a fun side dish, or drizzle with honey and crushed peanuts for dessert!
  • Freeze your uncooked Korean Garaetteok in an airtight container for later use.

Happy Cooking!

 

 

Chiles en Nogada

WIN_20150924_182712 Chiles en Nogada is an amazing dish from Puebla, Mexico. The green poblano peppers, white creamy sauce, and red pomegranate seeds bring the colors of the Mexican flag together in one bright burst of flavor. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love Mexican cuisine… and of all of the Mexican dishes we’ve sampled, we love Chiles en Nogada the very most! It’s a beautiful, memorable dish to serve at a dinner party, and the completed dish freezes very well.

Many versions of Chiles en Nogada include Continue reading