Chocolate Strawberry Muffins

WIN_20150826_100036Chocolate and strawberries… what’s not to love? These muffins take 5 minutes to prep and 25 minutes to bake. The aromas which will waft from your oven will be amazing enough to convince even a teenager to climb out of bed and get ready for school. Or, bake them the night before and share a little lunchbox love. Here we go!

WIN_20150826_091617Ingredients (Makes 12 jumbo muffins)

2 cups flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 tablespoons Dutch cocoa powder

2/3 cup sugar

WIN_20150826_0923081 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/3 cup oil (such as canola oil or melted coconut oil)

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1 cup frozen strawberries, partially thawed and cut in half

Red sugar for sprinkling on top of muffins (optional)


Step 1) Combine flour, oats, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg, milk, and oil. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

WIN_20150826_092819Step 2) Gently fold chocolate chips and halved strawberries into the batter. Ladle 1/4 cup of batter into each of 12 jumbo muffin liners. Tip: you don’t actually need a jumbo muffin pan! The larger liners will sit fine (just higher) in a standard muffin tin.

 Keliwa 12 Cup Silicone Muffin & Cupcake Baking Pan / Non – Stick / Dishwasher – Microwave Safe / 21 FREE RECIPES

Step 3) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before serving!



Tomato Corn Chutney

WIN_20150825_195646This sweet and tangy recipe is so versatile, I can recommend three completely different dinner ideas right off the top of my head. First, you can combine one quart of chilled Tomato Corn Chutney with one pound of cooked, chilled shrimp and a diced jalapeno pepper for a fantastic spin on coctel de camerones. Second, you can combine one quart of warmed Tomato Corn Chutney with a small can of black beans and one pound of cooked, cubed chicken for a delicious chicken chili. Third, you can drain a quart of Tomato Corn Chutney and combine it with one pound of seasoned ground beef for a tasty enchilada filling.

However you plan to use this chutney, remember… the season for fresh sweet corn is SHORT!

Ingredients (Makes 5 quarts or 10 pints)

1 large white onion, diced

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 large green apple, diced

5 pounds of tomatoes (about 20 tomatoes), coarsely chopped

8 ears of sweet corn (kernels only)

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt


Step 1) Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot. This is simple, but peeling and cutting corn, chopping tomatoes, and dicing peppers, onions, and apples takes a little while. Be patient.

Step 2) Bring all ingredients to a gentle boil.

Step 3) Ladle chutney into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles by running a knife or canning tool along the inside of the jars. Top with lids and rims, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (pints) or 20 minutes (quarts).


Easy Freezer Gumbo

WIN_20150725_120228Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, the first days of September are the lull before the storm. Also known as the “honeymoon phase” of the school year, early September ticks by on a predetermined schedule with the precision of a Swiss watch.

But I know what’s coming.

First, a lunchbox will be forgotten on the bus, never to be seen again. A math assignment will disappear. After this week’s round of laundry, paint from an art project will fail to come off of a favorite sweatshirt, and every third sock will be consumed by the Sock Eating Monster Who Lives in the Dryer.

All organization will fly out of the window, and by mid-September the school year will settle into its usual, chaotic self.

Dinner? I’m supposed to cook DINNER amidst this madness? [Insert maniacal laugh here!]

Today’s recipe for Easy Freezer Gumbo will set us up with four future dinners, which can be easily thawed and served even when you are on your last frayed nerve. (“You need posterboard and 85 cupcakes for school tomorrow? Sure, let me find my magic wand.”)  Let’s get started!

WIN_20150725_103545Ingredients (Makes 4 quarts of concentrated Gumbo – add more broth when serving for 6 quarts total!)

1 pound uncooked sausage (Andouille sausage is traditional; use whatever you like)

1/4 cup flour

WIN_20150725_1047452 quarts chicken stock

1 pound cooked chicken, cubed or shredded

4 cups okra, cut into bite size pieces

4 cups assorted vegetables (corn, onions, and zucchini work well), cut into bite size pieces

WIN_20150725_1049234 teaspoons of gumbo file (sassafras) powder, such as:

Tony Chachere’s Creole Gumbo File’ – 1.25 oz


Step 1) Fry sausage in a large, heavy pan until it is cooked through – don’t wash the pan afterward! Remove sausage from pan and cut into small pieces. Divide the pieces between 4, quart size freezer containers (we WIN_20150725_115210recycle quart size yogurt containers for freezing soup).

Step 2) Add flour to the pan and stir vigorously into the sausage drippings over medium heat. You are making “roux” or thickener for your gumbo in this step. Continue to stir over medium heat until the flour is cooked to a rich golden brown color. WIN_20150725_114717If there is not enough fat from the sausage to blend with the flour, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan.

Step 3) Slowly whisk chicken stock into the pan with the roux, adding stock a little at a time to avoid lumps. Simmer stock mixture, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to simmer until it reduces in volume a little bit WIN_20150725_113504(you should have about 6 cups of thickened stock when you are finished).

Step 4) Divide the cooked chicken into fourths and place in each freezer container on top of the sausage. Likewise, divide okra and any other raw vegetables you are using between the four freezer containers. The containers should appear full.

WIN_20150725_114446Step 5) Sprinkle one teaspoon of gumbo file (fee-lay) powder into each freezer container. Gumbo file powder is made from dried sassafras leaves, and is considered by many to be an “essential” ingredient in creole dishes such as gumbo. In addition to flavoring your gumbo, file powder acts as a thickening agent.

Step 6) Bring thickened chicken stock to a full boil, then remove from heat. Carefully ladle the hot chicken stock into each freezer container, allowing the stock to seep between the meats and veggies, filling the containers to within 1/2 inch of the top. The hot liquid blanches the vegetables right in their storage container, saving you a step!

Step 7) Cover and label your four containers of gumbo, and cool in the refrigerator. Within 12 hours, transfer your containers to the freezer.

To serve: Remove one container from the freezer the night before or the morning of the day you plan to serve gumbo for dinner. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator. Before dinner, transfer contents of the container to a large pot. Add additional chicken stock, broth, or water to bring to a soup-like consistency. Gumbo is versatile – feel free to throw bits and specks of leftover veggies into the pot before serving! If you want to be fancy, throw in a few cooked shrimp as well!

Three Ingredient Apple Pecan Tarts

WIN_20150827_101143Seriously, folks. Three ingredients. You could make these in your sleep, and they’re delicious. What are you waiting for?

WIN_20150827_093203Ingredients (Makes 32 mini tarts)

1 package of roll-out refrigerated pie crust

2 cups of apple jelly

2 cups of shelled pecans (halves or chopped pieces)


Step 1) Bring apple jelly to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for five minutes, then remove from heat.

Step 2) While apple jelly is boiling, open the package of roll-out refrigerated pie crusts (there are two crusts per package). Instead of rolling them out, squish each crust into a big ball of dough. How fun!

WIN_20150827_093857Step 3) Place a small ball of pie crust dough, about the size of a golf ball, in each well of a mini muffin pan. Push the dough down in the center so that it flattens on the bottom and up the sides of the well. You can use a tart press (shown), a medicine cup, or just your fingers for this.

The Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper 1590

Step 4) Place two pecan halves or one heaping teaspoon of chopped pecan pieces inside of each tart crust. Gently spoon the WIN_20150827_094743boiled apple jelly over the pecans in each tart crust, leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top of each tart.

Step 5) Bake tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Step 6) Using a butter knife and/or a teaspoon (not your fingers!), remove the tarts from the mini muffin pan while they are still warm. Cool on a wire rack.

Share your favorite bakery recipe, WIN a set of European bakery note cards!

 Cookies and cakes and pies, Oh My!

Whether your favorite baked goods are cookies or cakes, brownies or pies, breads, scones, or something else entirely, please consider sharing a recipe with the Global Recipe Project! THREE Crowded Earth Kitchen readers who submit a recipe (not published elsewhere, please) will have their name and recipe featured in the Global Recipe Project charity cookbook and will receive a FREE set of European Bakery Notecards! High gloss, professional notecards featuring Bavarian apple pastry, Belgian dipped cookies, Dutch stroopwafel, and a French bread basket can be yours!

Simply click on the Global Recipe Project for more details, or message me with questions. Thanks and good luck!

Contest ends September 15th!

Bavarian Apple Pastry

Belgian Dipped Cookies

Dutch Stroopwafel

French Bread Basket

Peach Cobbler

WIN_20150906_194452The season for fresh peaches is long this year. I don’t know why peaches are still available (and at low prices!) over Labor Day weekend, but I’m sure not complaining! Instead, I’m making peach cobbler. This recipe was inspired by Toni Blake’s blackberry cobbler recipe, and is just delightful. Toni Blake is one of my favorite authors, and wrote her blackberry cobbler recipe into her heartwarming Destiny book series.

If you’ve made fruit cobblers before, you might find it strange that the fruit goes on TOP of the batter in this recipe. Don’t worry. The fruit will sink, and the batter will rise. and everything will end up in the right place!

WIN_20150906_183231Ingredients (Makes a 9″ x 13″ pan)

1/2 cup butter

2 cups flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups milk

WIN_20150906_1812161/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

4 fresh peaches, diced


Step 1) Begin preheating oven to 350 degrees. While oven preheats, place 1/2 WIN_20150906_181326cup butter (1 stick) in a 9″x13″ pan. Place the pan in the oven for a few minutes to melt the butter.

Step 2) While butter is melting, stir together all remaining ingredients except peaches.

Step 3) Remove pan from oven, and pour batter on top of melted butter. Sprinkle WIN_20150906_181453diced peaches evenly over the top of everything.

Step 4) Bake cobbler in a preheated 350 degree oven for one hour. Share with friends!WIN_20150906_192334

Pecan Freezer Pesto

WIN_20150824_163338Now that the nights are cooler, my basil plants are looking pretty tired. The leaves are beginning to turn a paler shade of green, and I will lose them to winter soon. It’s time for a quick harvest! Luckily, my Swiss chard greens are looking fabulous. Today we’re making a simple pesto using a combination of chard and basil, with pecans instead of the more popular (and very expensive!) pine nuts. This pesto freezes beautifully, and will provide you with the wonderful flavor of fresh basil all winter long.

Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 cups)

6 cups loosely packed chard leaves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Step 1) Combine chard leaves, pecans, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until fairly smooth.

Step 2) Add basil, salt, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth, using a rubber scraper to incorporate ingredients if necessary.

Step 3) Use a teaspoon to fill each well of an ice cube tray with pesto. Place in freezer until pesto is completely solid, then remove pesto cubes and freeze in a resealable freezer bag.

Add individual cubes of pesto to sautéed vegetables, pasta sauces, soups, and casseroles all winter long!