12 Days of Cookies and FREE Book Giveaway!

Happy Holiday Season, Everyone!

It’s time to find your aprons, rolling pins, and cookie cutters, because we’re kicking off a 12 Days of Cookies extravaganza! From December 1st – 12th, we’ll feature a new mouthwatering holiday cookie EVERY DAY. To celebrate, we’re offering a Rafflecopter giveaway featuring a free, author signed copy of How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé. Wouldn’t that make a great Christmas gift for the bookworm on your gift list?

How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle Blue Cover

 

Readers are welcome to enter the giveaway contest EVERY DAY! Please SHARE with fellow bakers. Happy Cookie Baking!

WIN_20151117_163720

 

Top Ten Affordable Kitchen Gadgets (Great Gift Ideas!)

kitchen gadgets

Here you have it – the Crowded Earth Kitchen “Top Ten” list of affordable kitchen gadgets we simply love. There are no status symbols on this list… if you’re looking for a TV show food processor that costs more than many people pay for rent, you’ll need to look some place else.  We’re pretty frugal and low tech around here. Check out the “old standbys” that we use often and highly recommend!

1) CANNING SUPPLIES.  Cooks who learn to preserve food through simple, hot water bath canning save more money than cooks who don’t. Investing in a few basic canning supplies will pay off quickly!

Granite Ware 0718-1 Enamel-on-Steel Canning Kit, 9-Piece

2) A STOCKPOT.  You can get away with saucepans and little one-quart pots when you’re living on ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, but when you get serious about cooking, you need a stockpot.  Yes, you do.

Excelsteel 16 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot With Encapsulated Base

3) AN IMMERSION BLENDER. I resisted this for a while, and tried ladling soup back and forth from a stockpot to a standing blender. The first time I burned myself, I stopped being (quite so) cheap and bought an immersion blender.

Conair Cuisinart Smart Stick CSB-75BC 200 Watt 2 Speed Hand Blender (Brushed Chrome)

4) A BUNDT PAN. I don’t have a huge assortment of baking pans, but I do love my Bundt pan. I use it for everything from delicious, light sponge cakes to decadent pecan rolls. The shape looks fancy – anything baked in a Bundt pan makes a great buffet centerpiece!

Cuisinart AMB-95FCP Chef’s Classic Nonstick Bakeware 9-1/2-Inch Fluted Cake Pan

5) A FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKER. Best… coffee… ever! Just add coffee grounds and boiling water – this couldn’t be any easier. It works with tea leaves, as well.

SterlingPro French Coffee Press –8 Cup/4 Mug (1 liter, 34 oz), Chrome

6) INDIVIDUAL RAMEKIN DISHES. These are great for serving appetizers and desserts.

Norpro 6 Piece Porcelain Ramekin Set

7) OIL FREE, MICROWAVE POTATO CHIP MAKER. I wouldn’t have believed it if my mother didn’t buy one first to try it out, but this little gadget is amazing! You can make awesome snack chips out of potatoes and other vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, you name it) without any added fat. How cool is that?!

Joie Healthy Microwave Potato Chip Maker / Slicer / Cooker (Colors May Very)

8) Silicon Mat for Macarons. After several trips to France, I have developed a borderline obsession with macarons. These silicon mats are perfect for beginners, and are less than $5! Recipes coming soon…

1 X Silicone Macaron macaroon Baking Sheet Mat Muffin DIY Chocolate Cookie Mould Mode – 48 Capacity

9) Ninja Master Prep. This blender is absolutely fabulous, and completely affordable! For approximately $30, this blender will do everything from quickly pureeing soups to effortlessly crushing ice. How cool is that?

Ninja Master Prep (QB900B)

10) 17-Piece Tools and Gadgets Set. Look, Everybody needs these things in their kitchen, especially if they’re just starting out. Whether you need to stir, whisk, ladle, peel, measure, scrape, open, or grate, this set does it all.

KitchenAid Classic 17-piece Tools and Gadget Set (Black)

There you have it… a short list of Crowded Earth Kitchen favorites! What’s your favorite gadget in your kitchen? Feel free to comment below!

Caramel Apple Jelly

caramel apple jellyInstead of spending the holiday weekend shopping, why not spend an afternoon making pretty jars of delicious Caramel Apple Jelly for the loved ones on your gift list? Caramel Apple Jelly takes a bit of time to prepare, but the steps are easy to follow and your kitchen will smell wonderful. As an added bonus, Caramel Apple Jelly is a very economical recipe! Pick up a few bags of apples to make applesauce or a festive German dinner, and save the cores for this recipe. You can always cut the recipe in half, to make 4 jars instead of 8.

Ingredients (makes 8 half-pints)

30 apple cores

3 cups sugar

3 cups brown sugar

6 tablespoons powdered pectin

2 tablespoons loose caramel-flavored tea

picture011Directions

Step 1) Place apple cores and tea in a stockpot and just barely cover with water.

Step 2) Bring stockpot to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

picture014Step 3) Place a strainer in a slightly smaller bowl and line with a tightly woven, clean towel (or several layers of cheesecloth) as shown.  It is important that there is room in the lower bowl, below the bottom of the strainer, for juice to collect!

~

picture031Step 4) Carefully transfer the apple cores and juice into the towel-lined strainer.  Be careful to avoid overflow… you may need to ladle a few cups of juice out of the lower bowl and into a second bowl (for temporary storage) right away.  Be patient, and allow an hour or so for all of the apple juice to collect in the bottom bowl.

Step 5) Combine sugars and pectin.  Set aside.

Step 6) Measure 5 cups of apple juice, and bring to a rolling boil in your stockpot.

Step 7) Add sugar mixture to stockpot and, with constant stirring, return to a rolling boil.  This may take a few minutes.  After a rolling boil has been maintained for one, solid minute, remove caramel apple jelly from heat.

picture042 (2)Step 8) Ladle caramel apple jelly into sterilized, half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims clean, and top with lids and bands.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Jars of homemade caramel apple jelly make wonderful gifts.  Remember, making jelly is a fun and economical way to make use of fruit cores!

Easy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

WIN_20151118_203406So, you agreed to bake pie for the big dinner this week. You had high hopes of learning to make crust from scratch, complete with fancy edges, a lattice top, and all of the frou-frou that you saw on that gourmet food magazine. Then life intervened and you got busy. Don’t worry. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve got you covered!

To save time and sanity this holiday week, we’re starting with a store bought, roll-out pie crust. If you’re feeling obligated to make a scratch crust, that’s cool – click on the link above and we’ll walk you through it. But seriously, nobody is going to shun this awesome Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie because you skipped a few steps with the roll-out crust. I doubt they’ll even know the difference.

Let’s get started!

WIN_20151118_155802Ingredients

1 roll-out pie crust

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin

1 cup (8 oz) evaporated milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground mace

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151118_174029Directions

Step 1) Roll pie crust into a glass pie pan. This is easiest when the pie crust has been allowed to rest on a counter top for about 10 minutes before unrolling. If you try to unroll the pie crust right from the fridge, it will crack. If you let it get too warm, it will stick. 10 minutes is just about right!

Step 2) Trim the pie crust even with the edge of the pie pan. Cut little shapes out of the scraps if you wish, to use as a garnish.

Step 3) Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Spread mixture on bottom of pie crust as shown.

Step 4) In a medium size mixing bowl, beat eggs and pumpkin. Add sugar, spices, and salt. Finally, add evaporated milk a little at a time until fully incorporated.

WIN_20151118_185524Step 5) Pour pumpkin mixture carefully into your pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 40 minutes.

Step 6) If using small crust shapes as a garnish, set small crust shapes on a baking sheet and place in the oven for the final 10 minutes of pie baking time. Place baked crust shapes on top of the baked pie.

 

 

How to Make Homemade Gravy

WIN_20151118_181452Easy peasy! Today’s post is more “technique” than “recipe”. If you’re roasting a turkey, baking a ham, or cooking any other large portion of meat in the oven, you may as well make homemade gravy! Let’s get started.

WIN_20151118_180101Ingredients (Makes 2 cups)

Drippings from roasting pan

1 tablespoon cornstarch

water

Directions

WIN_20151118_180349Step 1) After you remove your turkey (or other meat) from your roasting pan, scrape all of those funky looking drippings into a sieve placed over a saucepan (see photo). Discard the solids in the sieve.

Step 2) Measure the liquid from the drippings. You need approximately 2 cups for gravy, but you may not have two cups of liquid from the roasting pan. No worries! If you have one cup of liquid from the pan, add 1 cup of broth (chicken broth works for turkey drippings) or water. Make sure you don’t add more water than liquid from the pan. For example, if you only have 1/2 cup of liquid from the drippings, then you can add 1/2 cup of water or broth to make 1 cup of gravy.

Step 3) Bring your liquid to a gentle boil.

Step 4) In a small container (a coffee mug works well), combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk together until absolutely smooth… there should not be even one tiny little lump in the cornstarch mixture! Alternately, you could use a small plastic container with a tight fitting lid, and shake the cornstarch/water mixture until smooth.

WIN_20151118_181250Step 5) Slowly drizzle your smooth cornstarch mixture into the boiling liquid and stir! Keep stirring with gentle boiling until gravy mixture thickens. This should take about 5 minutes.

Step 6) If you want thicker gravy, use an additional tablespoon of cornstarch and repeat steps 4 and 5.

DO NOT ADD POWDERED CORNSTARCH DIRECTLY TO THE GRAVY WITHOUT FIRST BLENDING WITH COLD WATER. Seriously. You will end up with a weird, lumpy mess. I, ah, know someone who made this mistake once because she was, ah, in a hurry. Or so I’m told. It was gross. Or at least that’s what a little bird told me.  😉

You’ll notice that we didn’t add any seasoning to our gravy. This is because I’m assuming that the meat you roasted was seasoned, and those seasonings have already flavored your pan drippings. Taste your gravy. If it’s bland, add salt and pepper a PINCH at a time, tasting after each pinch. You can always add more salt and pepper, but once it’s in there, it’s in there. Don’t overdo it.

That’s all! Easy peasy!

Rosemary Lemon Roast Turkey

WIN_20151118_175731For many years, I was apprehensive about roasting a turkey. I’m not really sure why. The first year I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in my own home, I ordered a turkey from a deli – precooked, with ready-made gravy on the side! At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea. Now, I don’t understand what the fuss was all about.

Roasting a turkey is really, really easy. Before we get started, here are a few pointers. Other cooks may disagree – if so, please join the turkey conversation by posting a comment below!

  1. If there’s not a big price difference between fresh and frozen, buy a fresh turkey. They’re juicier, which is wonderful because roasting is a dry cooking process. I bought a fresh turkey at Aldi for 99 cents per pound.
  2. Unless you have 5 or 6 days to allow a frozen turkey to thaw in your refrigerator, you need to buy a fresh turkey. I have never… not once… seen a frozen turkey fully thawed after only 3 days in my refrigerator (which is what the directions on the turkey wrapping often promise).
  3.  Bigger is not better. If you’re feeding a lot of people, consider buying two small turkeys (10 – 12 pounds each) instead of one, massive bird. Smaller turkeys roast more evenly, and because they require less time in the oven, they are less likely to dry out.
  4. You don’t need a special roasting pan, a baster, a “turkey bag” (to cook a turkey in plastic??), or any other strange turkey paraphernalia. A 10 pound turkey will fit in a 9×13 cake pan. A larger turkey will fit on a jelly roll pan, or any baking sheet with sides at least 1 inch high.

Let’s get started!

WIN_20151118_131852Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 small, fresh turkey (10 – 12 pounds)

2 lemons

6 sprigs of fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151118_1336221/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons butter (not margarine), melted

Directions

Step 1) In the kitchen sink, remove your turkey from the wrapping. Find the bag of giblets and remove it from your turkey. Check both ends of your turkey for that bag of giblets!

Step 2) Rinse your turkey with cold water on the inside and the outside. Lift the turkey and turn it upside down to drain for a moment. Pat the turkey dry with a clean kitchen towel (and put that towel immediately in the hamper, so you don’t accidentally use it for anything else).

Step 3) Place your turkey in a pan or on a roasting sheet. Rub salt and pepper onto the skin.

Step 4) Poke a few holes with a paring knife in each lemon. Insert rosemary sprigs into several of the holes in each lemon, as shown.

WIN_20151118_133827Step 5) Insert one of the rosemary lemons completely inside of the turkey. Rest the other rosemary lemon near the opening of the turkey cavity.

Step 6) Coat the outside of your turkey with melted butter. Don’t use so much butter that it drips all over the pan (try to avoid that), but make sure at highest part of the turkey is covered. The butter will spread down the sides of the turkey as it roasts, sealing in flavor and giving the turkey skin a golden color.

Note: We are buttering our turkey skin instead of basting. It’s easier and prevents the meat from drying out. A buttered turkey will have a slightly darker color than a basted turkey (or a turkey in a bag), and the skin will be crispy. The end result is delicious!

Step 7) Showtime! Place your turkey in a preheated, 325 degree oven on the lowest rack possible. Your turkey needs to slowly roast until a meat thermometer poked into the thickest part of the turkey (but not against a bone) registers 165 degrees. Your turkey might have a little red timer attached (see photo) – this timer will pop out when your turkey is done. It’s STILL a good idea to check the temperature. Your turkey needs to reach 165 degrees in order to prevent food-borne illness!

How long will your turkey need to roast? That is the million dollar question! Every turkey and every oven is a little bit different. At 325 degrees, a 10 – 12 pound turkey will require approximately 3 hours of roasting time. Check your turkey after 2 1/2 hours, but don’t open the oven door before then!

Step 8) Let your roasted turkey rest on the countertop for 15 minutes before carving. A “tent” of aluminum foil (just a very loose covering of foil) can be used to prevent heat loss, but that’s not entirely necessary.

Enjoy your roasted turkey!

PS  – Don’t wash that pan! In our next Crowded Earth Kitchen post, we’ll show you how to make gravy with the drippings on that turkey pan!

Apple Cranberry Pie

WIN_20150822_102136I originally made these Apple Cranberry Pies for my cousin’s wedding celebration. It was a magically homespun sort of wedding… think outdoors with perfect weather, wildflowers everywhere, mason jars and homemade pies. The bride looked like she stepped right out of a fairy tale. Sigh. I digress.

Back to the present… apple cranberry pie would be lovely for Thanksgiving! Pressed for time and leery of homemade crust? Feel free to pick up a box of rolled-up, ready to use pie crusts in the refrigerator case at your supermarket and skip right to Step 4. I won’t tell anyone.

Ingredients (serves 8)

Crust:

2 1/2 cups white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2/3 cup cold, unsalted butter (please use real butter for this!)

6 tablespoons vodka

4 tablespoons cold water

2 eggs

WIN_20150822_085150Filling:

6 cups peeled, sliced apples (I used 4 Macintosh and 4 Cortland apples)

1/2 cup cranberries (frozen are fine)

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)

pie1Directions

Step 1) Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, and allspice in a small mixing bowl. Add cold butter. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry cutter, until mixture resembles a bowl of pea-size crumbs.

Step 2) Sprinkle water and vodka over butter mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Don’t dump the liquid all in one place! Gently incorporate until a ball of dough forms. If you need to use your hands, that’s fine.

pie2Step 3) Divide dough in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured countertop using a lightly floured rolling pin until the dough is approximately a 12 inch circle. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, no matter what some cookbooks tell you (we’ll fix it later, don’t worry).

Step 4) Fold one of the dough circles over the rolling pin to transfer to a deep dish pie pan. Simply pat the dough lightly into place. If the dough tears, don’t panic, just patch it back together with your fingers. I won’t tell anyone, and seriously, nobody will notice if your crust isn’t picture perfect. Carry on…

pie3Step 5) This is why we don’t care if the crust is a perfect circle… use a small knife to slice off all of the dough that hangs past the edges of your pan! We’ll make it look all fancy in a moment, but for now, we just want the dough even with the edges.

Step 6) Using a tiny cookie cutter or other mold, cut tiny shapes (approximately 1 square inch) from the dough scraps. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired. Set shapes aside.

Step 7) Cover your pie crust with a towel, and make your filling… Combine your apple slices, cranberries, sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl. Mix gently until ingredients are combined.

WIN_20150822_090102Step 8) Sprinkle the bottom of your pie crust with shredded coconut. This is entirely optional, and you really won’t taste the coconut. This steps helps to absorb excess liquid from the pie filling. If you don’t like coconut, try sprinkling the bottom of your pie crust with finely ground pecans.

Step 9) Pour your apple cranberry pie filling into your pie pan. Isn’t it pretty?

Step 10) Top your pie with the second circle of dough. Use your fingers to gently crimp the top and bottom crusts together. Don’t worry if the edge doesn’t look fancy like a cooking show pie crust… just say your pie crust is “rustic” and move on with your day.  😉

WIN_20150822_092220Step 11) Cut a few slits in your top crust for steam to escape. Brush beaten egg over the top pie crust, and stick on the little dough shapes you cut a few minutes ago. Just work with what you have, and try to space your little dough shapes evenly. There, look at that lovely pie crust! No perfect circle required. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.

Step 12) Bake your apple cranberry pie on a low rack in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

Chocolate Banana Bread

WIN_20151030_185933This Chocolate Banana Bread is absolutely luscious. Dense and full flavored, this bread works equally well as a breakfast food and a dessert. The trick is to use very ripe bananas. If the skins aren’t black, wait another day or two. Any green on the skin? Don’t even think about it – even a speck of green means that your bananas aren’t ripe at all, let alone ripe enough for this recipe. Patience, friends. Patience.

WIN_20151030_173516Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves, approximately 12 slices per loaf)

4 very ripe bananas (skins should be black)

2 eggs

1/2 cup cooking oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 small (3.9 oz) packages instant chocolate pudding

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups flour

1/4 cup milk

WIN_20151030_173902Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour two loaf pans. Set aside.

Step 2) Use a pastry cutter or two forks to thoroughly mash bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, oil, sugar, and almond extract. Mix well.

Step 3) Stir in chocolate pudding mix, baking powder, salt, and flour. Mixture will be very stiff.

Step 4) Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until chocolate banana bread mixture spreads easily with your mixing spoon (more like brownie batter, less like cookie dough). I added a total of 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup of milk. You may need a bit more or less, depending upon the size and ripeness of the bananas you used.

Step 5) Spread chocolate banana bread batter into loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 6) Cool loaves on a wire rack and enjoy!

WIN_20151030_190245

Fun Variation: Feeling creative? Try experimenting with pudding mix in other flavors. You might try vanilla pudding mix with vanilla extract instead of the almond extract. Or, you might try pistachio pudding with a few coarsely chopped pistachio nuts sprinkled onto the top of each loaf just before baking. If you try a variation on this Chocolate Banana Bread recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy baking!

 

Early Holiday Gift Special!

*** November 16th – 30th Only ***

Early Holiday Gift Special!

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Purchase a signed copy of How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé ($11.99) using the PayPal link above,

and receive a FREE set of European Bakery Notecards with your order!

Bavarian Apple Pastry

Bavarian Apple Pastry

Belgian Dipped Cookies

Belgian Dipped Cookies

Dutch Stroopwafel

Dutch Stroopwafel

French Bread Basket

French Bread Basket

How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle Blue Cover

Forget what your English professor told you – life stories are not written in college.

Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…

Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?

Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?

Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?

Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.

Includes over a dozen decadent new recipes from Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Cherry Harbor Series, Volume 1

276 pages

CEK Publishing

ISBN-10: 0692292101

ISBN-13: 978-0692292105

Six Ingredient Chili

WIN_20151030_191018Too often, chili is a food of unfortunate extremes. At one end are recipes which profess that only expensive cuts of meat and rare chili peppers grown in obscure South American locations can be used – at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we think that’s silly. At the other end, there’s ready-to-eat chili in a can. Unless you are hiking through the Alaskan wilderness, have gotten lost, and are using canned chili to stay alive, please put the can down.  😉

Today’s chili recipe is perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon or a quick weeknight dinner. I like to double this recipe and freeze individual portions for fast lunches. A word to the wise: we’re cheating a bit on the six ingredients. Don’t worry – you only need six items from the market. One of those items, salsa, actually contains a whole list of typical chili ingredients including tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and salt. By using salsa, we save ourselves the time of slicing and dicing several other ingredients, but we still capture all of the chili flavor! Let’s get started.

WIN_20151030_164633Ingredients (Makes 8 cups)

1 pound lean ground meat (turkey or beef will work equally well)

4 cups of salsa (any variety and spice level you prefer)

2 cups of corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned)

1 small can tomato paste

2 tablespoons ground chili powder (mild, medium, or hot)

2 cans (15 oz each) kidney beans

Directions

Step 1) Brown meat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until meat is fully cooked.

Step 2) Drain meat. If you want your chili to be as low-fat as possible, add some water to the meat and drain it a second time.

WIN_20151030_170628Step 3) Add salsa, corn kernels, tomato paste, and chili powder to the meat. If chili mixture is too thick, add water (1 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Step 4) Simmer chili for 30 minutes, covered. Add kidney beans and heat through. Serve hot.

Step 5) Want fancy chili? Feel free to offer sides of cheddar cheese, sour cream, macaroni noodles, and/or oyster crackers alongside bowls of Six Ingredient Chili. Enjoy!

Young Baker Spotlight – Congratulations, Olivia!

Olivia LaceToday’s post is a big ol’ Crowded Earth Kitchen shout-out to Olivia in Emmetsburg, Iowa – CONGRATULATIONS, Olivia!

Why are we so excited about Olivia, you ask?

Olivia is a talented young baker who won both a Blue Ribbon and Junior Recognition at the County Fair with the Rustic Apple Cake she baked! That’s a pretty impressive 5th grader, folks. Olivia is ten years old, and completed her first year of 4H. When she’s a bit older, her baked goods may very well be featured in the Iowa State Fair!

Olivia’s mother Marilee says that Olivia has been helping her bake “since she could sit on the stool by the counter” and now loves to make zucchini cake, muffins, and cookies largely on her own. Olivia’s next big project is kringla (we’d love to see that featured on Crowded Earth Kitchen, wouldn’t we, readers?). Olivia can already roll out kringla almost as fast as her mom… next is learning to mix the batter on her own.

French Bread NotecardHere at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we believe that food traditions are important. Young bakers like Olivia are carrying forward these traditions into the next generation – awesome! Olivia will receive a set of European Bakery notecards for sharing her story with Crowded Earth Kitchen.

Readers, if you know of another young baker or young cook who should be featured on Crowded Earth Kitchen, please contact us! We’d love to share more stories like Olivia’s.  🙂

Really Good Thanksgiving Stuffing

WIN_20151028_183433Of all of the traditional dishes often served with Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing is my very favorite. This particular recipe is a crowd pleaser, because it contains traditional flavors such as sage and apple, without any weird ingredients. Not only is stuffing easy to prepare, it’s very economical. Have a few slices of day old bread or dinner rolls? Simply cut them into cubes and allow them to dry for a few days. Then, follow the recipe below and bring a yummy bowl of stuffing to your Thanksgiving feast!

WIN_20151028_171158 - CopyIngredients (Makes 2 quarts)

10 cups dry bread cubes (I cut old dinner rolls into 1 inch cubes and left them to dry on baking sheets for about 3 days)

2 cups good quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup diced apple

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151028_171817 - CopyDirections

Step 1) Sauté celery, raisins, and diced apple in butter until celery is translucent. Add sage and salt.

Step 2) Heat chicken stock in a small saucepan. It doesn’t need to boil, but should be hot.

WIN_20151028_172523 - CopyStep 3) Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Top with celery/raisin/apple mixture.

Step 4) Be patient with this step… we’re going to gently add chicken stock to the bread cubes. Please don’t dump two cups of chicken stock into the mixing bowl at once – you’ll drown those poor bread cubes and end up with mush instead of stuffing! Instead, use a ladle to spoon a little bit of chicken stock over the bread cubes, toss lightly, and repeat.

Pyrex 2-Quart Glass Bakeware Dish

WIN_20151028_172835Step 5) Transfer mixture to a large, greased casserole dish. If desired, place a few small pieces of butter on top of the stuffing mixture. Cover the mixture with a glass lid or aluminum foil. Don’t pack the stuffing into the casserole dish; just gently fill to the top without pressing down.

Step 6) Bake stuffing in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve while hot. Happy Thanksgiving!

Coconut Pecan Crusted Salmon

WIN_20151028_183841This isn’t your average Tuesday night dinner, friends. This is dinner dressed in its Sunday best! Sockeye salmon is the real deal, with a wallop of heart healthy Omega-3s and flavors induced by the cold, wild waters of Alaska. Sockeye salmon is NOT the same as “Atlantic salmon”, which is code for farmed salmon raised is crowded conditions and often fed artificial colors to turn the flesh pink. No thanks. Instead of grabbing the lower priced Atlantic salmon, I wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, Sockeye salmon goes on sale – for about the same price as Atlantic salmon. When this happens, I buy several pounds at a time – it freezes well.

Sockeye salmon is special all by itself, but we’re making it extra fancy today with a crust of coconut and pecans. If you’ve never done this, don’t be intimidated by the idea of a crust. There’s really nothing to it! The preparation is as simple as spooning a crumbly mixture on top of your fish fillet and gently patting it down with your fingers. Seriously – that’s all. Let’s get started!

WIN_20151028_173148Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 large sockeye salmon fillet (approximately 1.5 pounds)

1 lemon or orange

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Step 1) Slice lemon or orange into 1/4 inch thick rings, and place rings one inch apart on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Place your salmon fillet, skin side down, on top of the fruit rings. This will prevent your salmon fillet from sticking to the baking sheet.

Step 2) Combine pecans, coconut, and salt in a small food processor or blender. Pulse until the mixture has a texture like coarse sand. Don’t get carried away – you want some texture, not a smooth paste.

[My favorite small, affordable food processor: Englewood NJ100 Red Ninja Express Chop]

WIN_20151028_175326Step 3) Use a teaspoon (nothing larger) to carefully spoon the mixture along the center of your salmon fillet. Try not to let the mixture roll off of the salmon and onto the baking sheet. If that happens, remove as much of the coconut-pecan mixture as you can from the surface of the baking sheet, and place it on top of the salmon where it belongs!

WIN_20151028_175437Step 4) Using your fingertips, gently spread the coconut-pecan mixture toward the edges of the salmon fillet, creating an even crust over the entire surface of the salmon (it’s OK to leave a very small edge uncoated).

Step 5) Carefully place your baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake your Coconut Pecan Crusted Salmon for 20 – 30 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily.

Step 6) To serve: I like to bring the salmon fillet to the dinner table right on the baking sheet, surrounded with roasted vegetables (roasted green beans are pictured above). It is very easy to cut slices from the salmon fillet to serve your family or dinner guests. Enjoy!

 

Apple Cider Bread

WIN_20150929_185548We’re using a bread machine today, folks, because November is a BUSY month! Between launching the Global Recipe Project cookbook and keeping up other projects, the convenience of my bread machine is alluring. If you prefer to go old school, this recipe will work just as well if you knead the dough by hand as we’ve done with many other bread recipes.

This bread is earthy and spicy, not too sweet – the perfect accompaniment to a hearty meal of beef stew or perhaps pumpkin soup. Enjoy!

WIN_20150929_151711Ingredients (Makes 1 loaf)

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/4 cup lukewarm apple cider

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 ounce packet of active dry yeast

WIN_20150929_184640Directions

This is the marvel of bread machines… simply add the ingredients to a bread machine in the order listed above (wet ingredients in first, yeast in last), and turn on your machine! I used a “sweet bread” setting with “medium crust.” A “white bread” setting would work just as well.

My bread was ready in just over three hours; times will vary depending upon the machine.

WIN_20150929_185047

Simple Beef Stew

WIN_20150923_195950

A bubbling pot of beef stew on the stove has a way of settling people at the end of a busy day. November’s cold air and brisk wind can feel refreshing in small doses, but can make a person feel like hibernating by the end of the day! I start beef stew in mid-afternoon, so that the earthy aroma fills the house by the time others arrive from work and school. I enjoy watching my loved ones peel off coats and scarves, rub cold hands together, and sniff the air with wind-nipped noses. Invariably, they smile. That’s well worth a few minutes of prep time!

WIN_20150923_164751Ingredients (Makes 3 quarts)

3 pounds chopped beef (often labeled “Beef Stew” at the market)

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup oil

6 cups vegetable juice (such as V8)

3 cups water

1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon finely diced fresh rosemary

8 cups “root and tuber” vegetables, peeled and cut into chunks (any combination of potatoes, yams, carrots, onions, etc.)

WIN_20150923_170041Directions

Step 1) Combine flour, nutmeg, paprika, and black pepper. Add to a plastic bag (such as a disposable grocery bag) with the beef, and shake gently to coat the beef.

Step 2) Working in two batches, add half of the oil to a large stockpot on medium-high heat. Add half of the beef and brown with WIN_20150923_171521stirring for 3 – 5 minutes. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and set aside. Prepare the other half of the beef in the same way. Remove all of the beef and set aside, but don’t wash the stockpot!

Step 3) To the same stockpot, add vegetable juice, water, and Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil. Add beef, stir, and reduce heat to simmer (covered) for one hour.

Step 4) After one hour, add 8 cups of vegetables as well as the fresh rosemary. Simmer, uncovered, for approximately 1 hour or until vegetables are fork tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking at the bottom of the pot. If mixture becomes too thick, add water or vegetable juice 1/4 cup at a time.

Step 5) Serve hot with crusty bread or wide noodles. Enjoy!