Simple Bread

picture346Simple Bread is a Crowded Earth Kitchen favorite. We first shared this recipe a few years ago, and it has been wildly popular! As the name implies, baking this bread is simple.  It is also economical, costing far, far less to prepare than any nutritionally equivalent bread available at your local market.  Simple Bread freezes well, as does the dough itself.  Over the next few days, we will use Simple Bread dough as the foundation for several healthy, low cost meals.  Let’s go play with flour!

Ingredients (makes 2 standard sized loaves, approximately 9×5 inches each)

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

2 cups whole wheat flour

4 cups white flour


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 flours, 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 picture332fun!).   Knead on a floured tabletop for a few minutes.  Divide dough in half, and shape into loaves.

Step 6) If you are making freezer dough, stop here!  Simply wrap your dough in plastic wrap and freeze.  When you wish to bake fresh Simple Bread, thaw your dough in greased, floured pans, and let rise until picture336double (this will take several hours from frozen).  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Step 7) If you are baking bread right now, place your loaves of dough in greased, floured pans, and let rise for one hour or until dough is slightly higher than the pans.

picture345Step 8) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy your Simple Bread!

Weeknight Spaghetti Bake

win_20161005_192041Think lasagna, but simpler to prepare. If you can boil spaghetti noodles, you can make Weeknight Spaghetti Bake successfully! Squares of this one dish meal can be enjoyed on their own or served with a crisp green salad. This dish freezes well, too – perfect for busy weekday lunches!

Ingredients (Makes 1 large pan, serves 8 – 12)

1 pound box of spaghetti noodles

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup olives, sliced mushrooms, and/or diced peppers (your preference)

1 pound lean ground beef

4 cups spaghetti sauce (homemade or store-bought)

2 cups shredded mozzarella and/or mild cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper


Step 1) Brown ground beef. Drain, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2) Cook spaghetti noodles to al dente, according to package directions. Drain well. Toss spaghetti noodles with egg and parmesan cheese. Transfer spaghetti noodle mixture to a greased, 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Spread noodles evenly over bottom of pan.

win_20161005_165219Step 3) Use a teaspoon to spread ricotta cheese over the spaghetti noodles. Top with olives, sliced mushrooms, and or diced peppers, and sprinkle with crushed, dried oregano.

Step 4) Next, top the ricotta and vegetables with ground beef. Pour sauce over the ground beef, making sure to coat the entire pan evenly with sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

win_20161005_165712Step 5) After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven. Remove foil and sprinkle shredded cheese over the entire pan. Return pan (uncovered) to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Step 6) Allow Weeknight Spaghetti Bake to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. Enjoy!


Steak ‘n Beer Cornbread

win_20161003_185148Cornbread doesn’t have to be boring, and it sure doesn’t need to be bland. This super simple recipe merges traditional cornbread with a bottle of beer and savory steak seasoning. The result is absolutely delicious!

Ingredients (Makes 1 bread loaf or 1 casserole dish)

2 cups white flour

1 cup cornmeal

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon steak seasoning (such as Penzeys Mitchell Street Steak Seasoning)

12 ounces of your favorite beer


Step 1) Grease a bread pan or casserole dish; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2) Mix all dry ingredients with a fork. Stir in beer and transfer batter to greased pan.

Step 3) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Yummy Frozen Pumpkin Torte

win_20160928_190824Question: What’s better than a delicious frozen pumpkin torte?

Answer: A delicious frozen pumpkin torte which is super easy to prepare!

This torte fits the bill. Yummy Frozen Pumpkin Torte offers the perfect flavor profile for autumn, has a beautiful presentation, and is simple enough for a beginner to tackle with confidence. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 12 – 16)

3 cups finely crushed gingersnaps

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

Whole gingersnaps (for garnish)

Toffee candy bar (for garnish)


Step 1) Combine gingersnap crumbs and butter. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of a 10 inch Springform pan. Place the pan with the crust in the freezer, to help the crust set.

Note: If you don’t have a Springform pan, you can use a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. You may need an additional (4th) cup of gingersnap crumbs and an extra 2 tablespoons of melted butter to coat the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

Step 2) In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Gently fold in softened ice cream. Remove the pan with the crust from the freezer, and spread the ice cream mixture over the crust. Cover with foil and return the torte to the freezer for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Step 3) Just before serving, garnish the top of your Yummy Frozen Pumpkin Torte with gingersnaps and toffee candy bar pieces. Remove side of Springform pan for presentation.

To store leftover torte in freezer, simply reattach the side of the Springform pan and cover with foil.


Autumn Plum Cake

easy-plum-cakeEvery autumn, the New York Times publishes the same plum torte recipe. It has something of a cult following. My friend Denise, a scratch cook who is rather particular about the recipes she endorses, raves about this torte. So, I gave it a try.

It’s good. Really good! The recipe is included here. I had larger plums on hand, so I used slices rather than halves. Whether this recipe is a “torte” or a “cake” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m going with “cake,” as for me the word “torte” conjures up images of complicated, many-layered German desserts. This recipe is blessedly simple. It is quite similar to Rustic Apple Cake, with different fruit. Enjoy this cake (torte?) with a cup of coffee as you watch the leaves fall.

Microwave Potato Chips

chips1Our garden produced a nice crop of lovely little purple potatoes this year. The insides are ringed with beautiful shades of violet, but the small size of these potatoes makes them impractical to peel. Voila! Potato chips! What a simple way to show off the color of these heirloom veggies!

On our Kitchen Gadgets page, we’ve provided a link to an affordable gadget which makes potato chips (oil free) in the microwave. It works really well, but makes small batches. We have a LOT of potatoes, and needed to find a way to process larger batches of chips. Aha! This worked like a charm:chips3

Emson Bacon Wave, Microwave Bacon Cooker

Yes, friends, an “As Seen On TV” microwave bacon maker, no joke! We used a mandolin to slice potatoes really thin, sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt, and arranged them in the bacon maker as shown:chips2

We microwaved our chips for approximately 6 minutes (until the chips started to brown). Done! So simple! What a great way to enjoy the high fiber goodness of garden fresh potatoes, without adding fat.

PS – this same technique works for vegetable chips made from yams, beets, carrots, and parsnips. Stay tuned!


French Chocolate Éclairs


If you know of a gooey, chocolaty baked confection more fabulous than a French Chocolate Éclair, do let me know because I can’t think of one! They’re so decadent, they must be difficult to make, right? Au contraire! If you can stir a few ingredients together and squeeze a plastic bag (more on that later), you can make this heavenly dessert.

Fun variation: Instead of the French vanilla cream filling used below, consider filling these decadent treats with English Lemon Curd. Either option is delicious! Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 30 mini Éclairs)

For the éclair shells:

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour Continue reading