Great Grandma Helen’s Swedish Meatballs

WIN_20151121_131938Swedish Meatballs are a holiday favorite here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. I have wonderful childhood memories of Christmas Eve celebrations at Great Grandma Helen’s house, where a great big Nesco full of Swedish Meatballs was the focal point of the kitchen. I have no idea how many Swedish Meatballs Great Grandma made for Christmas Eve, but it seemed like millions to me. I make these throughout the winter, as the aroma of Swedish Meatballs simmering in a slow cooker is magnificent on cold, snowy days.

Swedish Meatballs are a surefire crowd pleaser, for foodies and picky eaters alike. This recipe freezes well, allowing you to plan ahead for big events. Also, Swedish Meatballs are equally delicious as a main entree for a full dinner OR as a hot appetizer when a sit-down dinner isn’t planned. Enjoy!

Ingredients

2 pounds ground beef

1 pound ground pork

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon finely minced onion

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup milk

1 quart beef broth (for simmering)

Directions

Step 1) Combine brown sugar, salt, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork to evenly distribute spices.

Step 2) Combine all ingredients except for beef broth, including spice mixture from Step 1, in a large mixing bowl. Mix with your hands until thoroughly blended.

Step 3) Roll mixture into small meatballs, no more than 1 inch in diameter. These aren’t intended to be large, Italian-style meatballs, but rather small “cocktail size” meatballs.

Step 4) Place meatballs on baking sheets with shallow sizes and brown in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove meatballs from pan (drain fat). If you are freezing your meatballs, allow them to cool and stop here – freeze them in airtight containers. Allow to thaw in refrigerator before proceeding with Step 5.

Step 5) Place meatballs in a Crock Pot, Nesco, or other slow cooker. Top with 1 quart of beef broth. Heat on low setting (Crock Pot) or 275 degrees (Nesco) for at least one hour or until heated through.

 

King Crab Rolls

King Crab Rolls

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Happy New Year, Everyone!

King Crab Rolls just might be my very favorite special occasion food.  While King Crab is expensive, it is spectacularly delicious.  Alaskan King Crab is a wild caught (never farmed) product, and is sustainably harvested.  I feel much better about splurging on a pricey ingredient if I know my purchase is not harming the environment.

Everything about this recipe, from the decadent seafood to the homemade rolls toasted with real butter, shouts “Special Day!”  Whatever you happen to be celebrating, King Crab Rolls will make your mealtime grand!

picture337AIngredients (makes 4 large rolls)

1 1/2 pounds shell-on King Crab legs

1/2 pound bay scallops (optional)

1 teaspoon seafood seasoning blend

1/4 cup real mayonnaise

picture3481/4 cup finely chopped celery, including leaves

1 loaf of fresh Simple Bread

1/4 cup butter

Directions

picture337Step 1) Drop crab legs into a large pot of boiling water seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon of seafood seasoning blend.  Leave crab legs in boiling water for 3 minutes if they were fresh, or 10 minutes if they were frozen (typical).

Step 2) Drain crab legs and crack with a hand held nutcracker or clean picture338Apliers.  Extract meat using a small fork (a fondue fork works well, if you have one).  King Crab legs are spiny – hold them with a potholder to avoid hurting yourself!  Be patient with this step.  It may take 30 minutes or so to extract all of the meat.  Your effort will be worthwhile!

picture351Step 3) If using bay scallops, sauté them in a saucepan for 3 – 5 minutes until they are a milky white color.  Drain.

Step 4) Gently combine crab meat, scallops, mayonnaise, celery, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning blend.  Try not to break up the crab meat.  Refrigerate.

Step 5) Cut four generous, 2 inch thick slices from your loaf of Simple Bread.  Then, cut through the middle of each slice from the top, stopping 1 inch from the bottom crust.  Your slices should open in narrow “V” shapes, as shown above.

Step 6) Place 1/4 cup of butter on a baking pan with low sides, and melt by placing in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes.  Watch carefully, and remove pan when butter is just melted!

Step 7) Place each of your four “V” shaped bread rolls down on the melted butter, then flip over so that each of the two outsides are buttered.  Return pan to oven to toast your bread rolls for five minutes.

Step 8) Remove your toasted bread rolls, and carefully fill with equal quantities of your seafood mixture.  Serve right away, while the rolls are warm and the seafood is cold.

Enjoy your special occasion!

Kids in the Kitchen: Cake Mix Cookies

WIN_20151228_164903These are not fancy heirloom cookies – if you are looking for something to enter in the State Fair, may I gently suggest something else? No, these are “the kiddos are home from school and it’s too cold to send them outside” cookies! With only four ingredients, even the most pint-size of kitchen helpers can make their own batch. Sure, they might spill a few chocolate chips on the floor… but that’s easier to deal with than crayon drawings on the bathroom wall or trapeze fun with the living room drapes. So, go gather up your kitchen help and lets get started!

WIN_20151228_160640Ingredients (Makes about 36 cookies)

1 box of cake mix, any flavor (we used Devils Food)

2 eggs

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1 cup of baking chips, any flavor (we used peanut butter chips)

WIN_20151228_161711Directions

Step 1) Mix together all ingredients. The smaller the kitchen helper, the larger the bowl – big bowls help to prevent spills. Just make sure a grown-up holds onto the bowl, so the whole thing doesn’t go sailing across your kitchen. I’ve, ah, seen that happen before, and it isn’t pretty!

Step 2) Drop cookie dough in rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Allow cookies to cool right on the pan. So easy!

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag!

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Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, the kiddos are home all week for their holiday break. This vintage post offers up a fun and easy activity to keep your little ones safe from boredom until they return to school!

Making homemade ice cream is a lovely pastime. Just pull out that antique wooden, hand cranked ice cream maker and… Oh Wait… you don’t happen to have one of those? Well, never fear! A pair of zip lock plastic bags will work just fine.

Plastic bags?

Yes.

Don’t believe me? Give it a try! Just make sure to post a comment about your fabulous ice cream, OK?  🙂

WIN_20150622_145042Ingredients and Supplies (Makes 2 servings)

2/3 cup whole milk

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon flavor extract (vanilla, peppermint, etc.)

WIN_20150622_1503134 cups ice

1 cup coarse salt

2 “zip lock” sandwich bags

2 “zip lock” gallon size freezer bags

Directions

WIN_20150622_150328Step 1) Add 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup cream, and 1/2 teaspoon flavor extract to each sandwich bag. Gently squeeze out the air and carefully seal each bag.

Step 2) Add 2 cups ice and 1/2 cup coarse salt to each gallon size bag. Add a sandwich bag from step 1 to each gallon size bag. Carefully seal the gallon size bag.

WIN_20150622_150512Step 3) Place the gallon bag on a small towel. Fold the towel over the bag to protect your hands from the cold (ice+salt gets REALLY cold), and gently rock the towel back and forth on a flat surface for 5 minutes. Flip the bag over and gently rock for another few minutes, or until the contents of the sandwich bag are completely frozen.

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Chocolate Ice Cream! Use 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup instead of a flavor extract.

Step 4) Remove sandwich bag from gallon size bag and carefully wipe away any salt from zip lock opening. Carefully open bag and transfer ice cream to a serving bowl. Enjoy immediately!

Peach Spoon Cake

WIN_20151214_184414This simple dessert looks like a peach cobbler but tastes more like a yellow cake with peach filling. Peaches aren’t in season? No problem – frozen peach slices will work just as well. I enjoy Peach Spoon Cake as a weeknight dessert, but it could also make a decadent treat for Sunday brunch. Enjoy!

WIN_20151214_173727Ingredients (Serves 6)

1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 peaches, cut into quarters

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

WIN_20151214_174654Directions

Step 1) Grease a 2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

Step 2) Blend together butter, sugar, almond extract, and egg. Stir in milk, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Step 3) Transfer the batter to the casserole dish. Top with quartered peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Step 4) Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow Peach Spoon Cake to cool before serving.

Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies

WIN_20151224_094706Merry Christmas! Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies are a Christmas favorite. I’m baking these for you in “real time,” on the morning of Christmas Eve. I hope you enjoy them!

My mother-in-law gave me this recipe as part of a bridal shower gift, and explained that these cookies were her son’s very favorite. I still remember making my first batch of Chocolate Pixies as a newlywed, and realizing that these take a bit longer to prepare than plain old chocolate chip cookies. When I showed the finished batch to my husband, I told him “Wow – your mother really loves you!”  🙂

In all seriousness, Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies aren’t difficult to make, they just take about 15 minutes longer to prepare than many other cookies. That’s because the recipe begins with unsweetened baker’s chocolate, which needs to be melted and cooled before continuing. See, that’s not so difficult. The end result is spectacular. If a brownie and a cookie got married and had a Christmas baby, well, that’s a Chocolate Pixie.

WIN_20151224_083100Ingredients (Makes about 40 cookies)

4 tablespoons butter

4 ounces unsweetened baker’s chocolate

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups powdered sugar, for rolling

WIN_20151224_090425Directions

Step 1) Over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Stir frequently, and really keep that heat low to avoid scorching!

Step 2) Use a rubber scraper to transfer the melted chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl. Allow the chocolate to cool for a few minutes, then mix in sugar (not the powdered sugar!).

Step 3) Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Add vanilla and mix well.

Step 4) Add all dry ingredients (not the powdered sugar!) and stir until well combined. Cover and chill dough for at least one hour.

Step 5) Roll chilled dough into small balls, using about 1 heaping teaspoon of dough for each ball. This is easier if you butter your hands a bit, to prevent sticking.

WIN_20151224_091321Step 6) Roll dough balls in powdered sugar and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Make sure dough balls are at least two inches apart, as cookies will spread.

Step 7) Bake at 300 degrees for 12 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Don’t forget to leave a plate of Grandma Jenni’s Chocolate Pixie Cookies for Santa!

Crowd Pleasing Cranberry Sauce

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Don’t forget the cranberry sauce on your holiday buffet. It adds bright festive color as well as palate-cleansing flavors to your party! Here’s a recipe for a big batch. Enjoy!

WIN_20151118_165543Ingredients (Makes 6 cups)

6 cups fresh cranberries (24 ounces)

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Finely diced peel (yellow part only) from 1 lemon

2 tablespoons strawberry gelatin powder (i.e., from a small box of strawberry Jello)

WIN_20151118_171406Directions

Step 1) Bring cranberries, sugar, and water to a boil in a . Boil gently with stirring for 2 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have “popped” (you’ll be able to hear this).

Step 2) While the cranberries are coming to a boil, peel a lemon with a vegetable peeler. This is the easiest way to remove the yellow zest from the white pith. You don’t want the white part – it’s bitter! After you have peeled off the yellow zest, dice the zest with a paring knife.

Step 3) After the cranberries have boiled for 2 minutes, stir in the lemon peel and strawberry gelatin powder. Cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

Step 4) Allow the cranberry sauce to cool in the saucepan for a while, then transfer to a serving bowl. Cranberries may be served at any temperature, but I think they taste best cold (they also set up better, and are less “liquidy” when cold). My preference would be to place the serving bowl full of cranberry sauce in the refrigerator for an hour or two (or even overnight) before serving. Enjoy!