Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese

WIN_20160106_180537Mac ‘n Cheese is the ultimate Midwestern American comfort food. If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know that we have a big old foodie crush on Paris… but not even Paris does Mac ‘n Cheese as well as the American Midwest. We’ve been experimenting with recipes for Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese for a while, working to create a recipe that just simply doesn’t need to be improved any further. This is it. Enjoy!

WIN_20160106_170048Ingredients (Fills a deep dish pie plate)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup light cottage cheese

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound box of medium shells or macaroni noodles


Step 1) Pour chicken stock into a large saute pan and boil for 10 minutes or until reduced until only about 1/2 cup of liquid remains. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Step 2) Add shells or macaroni to a large pot of boiling water. Cook until al dente, or just a bit chewy – don’t overcook! Drain when al dente is reached.

Step 3) While pasta is cooking, add mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, and sharp cheddar cheeses to the saute pan with the reduced chicken stock. Heat on a low setting, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.

Step 4) After shells or macaroni are cooked and drained, add the cottage cheese, sour cream, and curry powder to the melted cheese mixture. Stir over low heat until thoroughly blended.

Step 5) Combine the cooked, drained noodles and the cheese mixture. Stir until noodles are evenly coated, and transfer the mixture to a greased deep dish pie plate or casserole dish. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 6) Cover with foil and bake your Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a fresh green salad.

Easy Chocolate Fondue


This chocolate fondue requires only three ingredients – what could be easier? While a fondue pot works wonderfully, it isn’t essential. A double boiler or even a small saucepan can work just as well (use a low heat, to avoid scorching). Try chocolate fondue for your next party, movie night, or stay-at-home date!

WIN_20160101_200024Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 pound milk chocolate

1 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur

Treats for dipping (marshmallows, pretzel sticks, and strawberries work well)


Step 1) Combine chocolate and half-and-half in a fondue pot (or top of a double boiler). Melt over low heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Just before serving, stir in Irish cream liqueur. Enjoy!



Cranberry Cheese Ball

1231151714aIt’s football season, and this Cranberry Cheese Ball would make a perfect halftime snack! This recipe is easy to make, easy to transport to your next party, and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. You can even make a Cranberry Cheese Ball ahead of time. This will keep in your refrigerator for several days. Alternatively, you can freeze it for several weeks. It will thaw nicely if left in the fridge for 24 hours.

Ingredients (Makes 1 large Cranberry Cheese Ball)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup finely chopped scallions

1/3 cup finely chopped fennel (or substitute celery)

1/3 cup chopped nuts (hazelnuts and walnuts work well)


Combine all ingredients except chopped nuts; mix well. Shape into a ball (or a log shape, if you prefer). Roll in chopped nuts. Wrap Cranberry Cheese Ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. To serve, allow Cranberry Cheese Ball to come to room temperature. Serve on a platter surrounded by crackers.


Brandied Raisin Pumpkin Bread


Brandied Raisin Pumpkin Bread is an easy to make quick bread (meaning it does not contain yeast) perfect for sharing with friends. I like to make several loaves at a time and deliver them fresh from the oven! This bread also freezes well, and is tasty in bagged lunches.

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup all natural applesauce

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons brandy

1/3 cup raisins


Step 1) Place raisins and brandy in a microwave safe container. Microwave, loosely covered, for about 30 seconds or until brandy is hot. Leave covered and allow to cool. This will plump up the raisins and infuse them with brandy flavor.

Step 2) Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, and sugars. Add milk, oil, applesauce, and spices.

Step 3) Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. When flour is fully incorporated, fold in brandy-soaked raisins (add everything; don’t drain the raisins).

Step 4) Transfer batter to a greased bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

BBQ Potato Soup

WIN_20160103_110443Hot. Soothing. Simple.

Whether you’re nursing a winter cold or simply trying to avoid one, BBQ Potato Soup makes a lovely lunch or simple supper. This soup is delicious all by itself, but if you’d like to dress it up a bit, try sprinkling with sharp cheddar cheese and pairing with crusty French bread. Happy Winter!

Ingredients (Makes 2 hearty dinner portions)

3 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 onion, peeled and quartered

3 cups pork stock or beef stock (I like pork stock)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

pinch dry mustard


Step 1) Combine onion, potato, and stock in a medium size pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and simmer until potatoes are very tender, approximately 20 minutes.

Step 2) Remove from heat, remove cover, and allow to cool for five minutes.

Step 3) Add remaining ingredients to the pot and carefully puree with an immersion blender. Serve immediately.

Three Recipes in One: Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

An oldie but a goodie, because this weather is perfect for baking!

Crowded Earth Kitchen


Yes, I’m giving you sugary goodness two posts in a row. The cold weather has addled my brain… I’ll make up for it next week.  For now, we’re going to make seriously fabulous Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins using homemade Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce and homemade Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting.  The Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce is delicious on its own… Half-Pint calls it “Pie Sauce” and will clean up his toys for a dish of this as a reward.  The Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting, well, if you just eat it with graham crackers or a spoon, who am I to judge?  Let’s get started!

WIN_20150122_210432Cranberry Pumpkin Muffin Ingredients (Makes about 15 muffins)

1 cup Cranberry Pumpkin Sauce (see below)

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt


Step 1) Whisk together first five…

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Marmalade Glazed Pork Tenderloin


When you can find it on sale for a reasonable price, pork tenderloin is a wonderful cut of meat. Lean, tender, and juicy, pork tenderloin needs nothing more than a tasty glaze and a hot oven to star in a dinner fit for company. Be sure to let the roasted pork rest under a loose cover of aluminum foil for 10 minutes before serving – don’t skip the last step, below! This keeps the pork juicy even after slicing.


Orange Marmalade

Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6)

1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1 pound

1 orange or lemon, sliced thin

1/4 cup orange marmalade

2 tablespoons white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Step 1) Whisk together marmalade and wine. Set aside.

Step 2) Line a baking pan with shallow sides with citrus slices. Place pork tenderloin on top of slices. (In the photo shown, I’ve doubled the recipe and used two pork tenderloins.)

Step 3) Sprinkle tenderloin with salt and pepper. Use a basting brush to coat tenderloin with half of the marmalade mixture.

Step 4) Roast tenderloin in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, brushing with remaining marmalade mixture after 15 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature of the pork has reached 160 degrees. If it hasn’t, return pork to oven and check again after 3 – 5 minutes.

Step 5) Remove from oven and cover with foil for 10 minutes before slicing and serving your Marmalade Glazed Pork Tenderloin.