Toasted Melon Seeds

melon seedsIf you’re waiting longingly for October to enjoy the savory taste of roasted pumpkin seeds… no need. One of the best kept secrets among frugal cooks is that ALL melon seeds are edible! The seeds from pumpkins, winter squash, watermelon (yes, watermelon), cantaloupe, honeydew, etc. are not only edible, they are chock full of Continue reading

Wisconsin Cream Puffs

It’s time to make cream puffs again! The Wisconsin State Fair is cancelled this year, which is all the MORE reason to recreate these tasty treats in your own kitchen. Enjoy!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

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Wisconsin State Fair opens this week, and of the many indulgent foods available at the fair, cream puffs reign supreme. On average, Wisconsin State Fair sells… wait for it… 350,000 cream puffs during the 11 day event.

Cream puffs are stone simple to make. Really. They fall into my favorite baking category, “looks complicated but is really easy!” Go on, play in the kitchen for a little while, and dazzle your friends with an amazing dessert at your next backyard cookout!

WIN_20160226_124952 Dough after eggs are mixed in

Ingredients (Makes 30 small or 10 “Wisconsin State Fair sized” cream puffs)

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour

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Spiced Cherry Jam

IMG_2161The season for fresh cherries at the market is absurdly brief. When they appear, I buy a few extra pounds for a big batch of Spiced Cherry Jam. The kids like to help, which I welcome – learning canning and preserving methods is a great home school lesson! Cheerful bright red jars of this jam taste like a burst of summer throughout the winter months. Enjoy!

IMG_2157Ingredients (Makes 10 half-pint jars)

10 cups fresh pitted cherries Continue reading

Italian Marinated Eggplant

It should come as no surprise that Crowded Earth Kitchen features at least one or two new eggplant recipes every summer. When you emphasize “fresh” and “frugal” in your kitchen, eggplant has a way of emerging as a frequent star. This summer, as these lovely purple beauties make their way from our garden to our table, we’re trying something new. Italian Marinated Eggplant is best served cold as part of an antipasto platter, with a side of crusty bread, or as a salad ingredient with fresh mozzarella (shown above). Enjoy!

eggplant1Ingredients (Makes 1 quart)

1 large or 3 small eggplant Continue reading

Great-Grandma’s Corn Relish

Sharing a true golden oldie from the 1930s… this recipe is great alongside a roast or added to a pot of chili. Enjoy!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

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My Grandpa Fred grew up enjoying this corn relish on the family dinner table. He remembers it fondly. I found his mother’s corn relish recipe in a treasure box of family recipes and, since my Grandpa is just about the coolest guy around, I’m happy to make a batch just for him whenever fresh sweet corn is available. I love you, Grandpa!

*Note: I’ve scaled this recipe down to a manageable size, as Great Grandma made a LOT of corn relish at once! Original quantities (which I occasionally prepare) are 3 times the quantities listed below.

Ingredients (Makes 8 pints)

8 ears of fresh sweet corn

2 onions

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup vinegar

2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 teaspoon mustard seed

1/3 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

Step 1) Working carefully, use a sharp knife to slice the kernels from…

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Pineapple Chicken Fried Rice

IMG_2139For some reason, fried rice has always sounded complicated. It’s not. The trick is to cook the rice the day before and refrigerate it overnight. It is much easier to stir-fry cold, day old rice. Trust me on this, and dive into this delicious, Thai inspired treat!

IMG_2138Ingredients (Serves 4 with leftovers)

1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided

2 cups Jasmine rice, cooked to package instructions and refrigerated overnight

1 cup diced, fresh pineapple Continue reading

Easy Zucchini Boats

IMG_2135Delicious, very easy to prepare, and uses up a few famously prolific garden zucchini – what’s not to love about Zucchini Boats? Medium sized zucchini, 10 to 12 inches long and about 3 inches in diameter, work well for Zucchini Boats. If you happen to find a “baseball bat” sized zucchini lurking in your garden (it happens), you can use it in this recipe, just add a few minutes to the baking time.

IMG_2133Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 medium sized zucchini, halved lengthwise and seeds scooped out Continue reading

Chicken Noodle Spring Rolls

IMG_2131During the height of summer, fresh spring rolls are a refreshing afternoon lunch. Spring roll wrappers used to be tricky to find, but as Asian cuisines have increased in popularity throughout the US, these wrappers have become readily available in supermarkets and online. This recipe uses other easy to find ingredients as well. For the cooked chicken, either a can of chicken or part of a supermarket rotisserie chicken will work. For the noodles, feel free to experiment! I really enjoy Japanese sweet potato noodles, but a cooked package of instant ramen noodles will work just fine.  Have fun!

Ingredients (Makes 12 Spring Rolls)

IMG_212712 round spring roll wrappers (rice paper)

1 cup cooked chicken cut into small cubes

3 ounces cooked noodles cut into 2 inch pieces

1 cup shredded cabbage

1 large carrot, grated

1/2 cup crushed peanuts

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons chili vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1 inch piece of ginger, finely grated

Directions

IMG_2126Step 1) In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the five sauce ingredients. Fold in chicken, noodles, cabbage, carrot, and peanuts.

Step 2) Place about 1 inch of water in a 12 inch skillet and bring to a simmer (not a boil) over medium heat.

Step 3) When water is hot but not boiling, place ONE spring roll wrapper in the water for 2 SECONDS (really… just two seconds). Use a spatula to gently remove the spring roll wrapper from the water and place it on a wood cutting board. Gently smooth out the wrapper; a few wrinkles are fine. If parts of the wrapper are still hard, you can dip the wrapper in water again for an extra second.

Step 4) Place 1/4 cup of filling in a small rectangle near the center of the wrapper.

WIN_20160502_170716Step 5) Fold the sides of the spring roll wrapper over the short sides of the rectangle of filling, as shown. Then, gently roll the spring roll from top to bottom, sealing the filling inside of the spring roll. The wrapper will stick to itself and form a nice seal.

Step 6) That’s it! Repeat steps 3 – 5 until you run out of filling.

Spring rolls are a FRESH food and are best enjoyed within a few hours of rolling (store in the refrigerator if not enjoying immediately). Try dipping your spring rolls in soy sauce, plum sauce, or peanut satay sauce – delicious! Spring rolls are inherently low in fat and are gluten free. You could also omit the chicken and add some shredded greens for your vegan friends. Have fun!

Moitié – Moitié Fondue

Like many Crowded Earth Kitchen readers, I am dreaming of getting back on an airplane. While we wait, let’s revisit Switzerland and make a scrumptious fondue!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Fondue at Restaurant des Antiquaires in Old Town Geneva

Ah,  you knew it was coming… the fondue post from Switzerland.  Going to Switzerland without recreating a fabulous fondue at home would be like, well, I don’t know – it simply isn’t done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My Favorite Restaurant in Old Town Geneva

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Fondue Options at Restaurant des Antiquaires

Fondue options abound in Switzerland.  If you happen to find yourself in Old Town Geneva (lucky you!), don’t miss Restaurant des Antiquaires.  Their whole menu is fabulous (my travel companion and I visited more than once), and their fondue options are simply sublime.

Moité – moité means “half and half,” and refers to the blend of two cheeses found in many Swiss fondues.  Typically, the two cheeses are Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois, although Emmentaler (a high quality version of the medium-hard, hole filled “Swiss” cheese) is sometimes paired with the  Gruyère instead.

A few notes on Swiss…

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French Cherry Clafoutis

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It’s now been six years since our magical European Food Tour concluded. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and travel bans of 2020, my soul aches to return to those enchanting, cobblestone meandering days. We’ll get there. For now, we can revisit favorite food memories, such as this delightful (and simple!) cherry dessert.

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The cherry clafoutis shown above was enjoyed in a little café in Lichtenberg.  It was truly delicious, and I’ve mimicked the taste and textures pretty closely, with two exceptions.  First, I used pitted cherries.  I understand that whole cherries are traditional, but really, spitting cherry pits onto a china plate takes something away from the whole dining experience, don’t you agree?  Second, I added walnuts to the crust.  Why? Because cherry pits – supposedly – add a nutty flavor to the dish.  I subtracted the pits, added some walnuts, and Voila! – flavor without, well, pits.

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Ingredients (Serves 8 – 10)

For the crust:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons cherry brandy

1 egg

For the filling:

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and set in a strainer to drain

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened (or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cherry brandy

Directions

Step 1) Combine whole wheat flour, walnuts, and sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles little peas.  Add egg and cherry brandy.  Mix – use your hands! – until well combined.

Step 2) Press dough into a tart pan (a pie dish would work fine, too).  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the dough and sprinkle with dried beans.  This will keep air bubbles from forming and “puffing up” your dough.

Step 3) Bake dough (foil, beans, and all) in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove beans and foil, and let cool for 10 minutes.

WIN_20140929_181944Step 4) While crust cools, use an electric mixer to combine softened Neufchâtel cheese, eggs, sugar, and brandy.

Step 5) Arrange thawed, drained cherries on crust.  Cover with cheese filling.

Step 6) Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve warm or cold.  Personally, I prefer this dish cold.  Try to share with 7 – 9 other people, but if you eat the whole darn thing by yourself, I won’t judge.  😉

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

WIN_20150724_123445If you don’t like zucchini, well, I’m not sure we can be friends. 😉 In all seriousness, zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables available. It’s also low in calories, surprisingly packed full of vitamins, and a prolific producer in just about any North American garden. This recipe uses grated zucchini. Feel free to use grated patty pan squash, yellow crookneck squash, or any other “zucchini-like” summer squash.

PS – You can grate your extra zucchini now and freeze it in 1 1/2 cup quantities (just measure it into zip-lock freezer bags) to bake this recipe later, if your hammock is calling you out into the sunshine!

WIN_20150724_101403Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves)

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup applesauce

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 large package instant chocolate pudding

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

WIN_20150724_103524Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour two bread pans.

Step 2) Combine grated zucchini, almond extract, applesauce, oil, and eggs. Stir until well combined.

Step 3) Add sugar and pudding mix; stir well.

Step 4) Add dry ingredients, a little at a time, until well incorporated. Fold in the mini chocolate chips last.

Step 5) Divide batter between two bread pans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Like just about any zucchini bread, this bread freezes well!

Lemonade Bundt Cake

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Have extra summer squash lurking in your garden? Here’s a fun, summery way to enjoy this plentiful veggie. This recipe works for zucchini, too!

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Ingredients (Makes 1 Bundt cake or 2 loaves)

1 1/2 cups grated yellow summer squash, such as patty pan squash (cut the peel off before grating if the peel is tough)

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 cup applesauce

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1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 large package instant lemon pudding

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

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1 teaspoon salt

For the icing:

2 – 3 cups powdered sugar

juice from 1/2 lemon

2 drops yellow food coloring

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Directions

Step 1) Grease a Bundt pan (or two bread pans) very well.

Step 2) Combine grated summer squash, lemon extract, applesauce, oil, and eggs. Stir until well combined.

Step 3) Add sugar and pudding mix; stir well.

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Step 4) Add dry ingredients, a little at a time, until well incorporated.

Step 5) Transfer batter to pan(s). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 – 55 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 6) Allow to cool in pan(s) for 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, then carefully transfer the cake to a serving plate.

Step 7) In a small bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar, juice from 1/2 lemon, and 2 drops of yellow food coloring. Stir well. If icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Step 8) Drizzle icing all over cake. If desired, garnish with slivers of lemon peel. Serve with coffee or tea and enjoy with a friend!

Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart

A five ingredient favorite… bake something fabulous, and go play outside in the sunshine!

Crowded Earth Kitchen

WIN_20160105_180446This dessert falls into my favorite category… the “looks complicated, but is really easy to make” category. In just a few minutes time, you can prepare a decadent tart that looks elegant enough to serve at the end of a fancy dinner. Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart is quite rich, and will serve a few more people than a similarly sized fruit pie. A modest wedge of this tart, perhaps garnished with fresh whipped cream and served with coffee, will make a perfect finish for an evening with company. If you prefer to enjoy this Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart in your PJs on a Tuesday night, I won’t judge!

Ingredients (Serves 12)

1 roll-out pie crust (or made from scratch if you prefer)

1/2 pound dark chocolate

1/3 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons rum cream

2 ripe bananas (the yellow peels should have dark spots!)

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered…

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Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam

IMG-1793Since we’re spending, ah, a lot of time at home these days, we may as well make the best of things. Here’s a warm and savory treat to enjoy with crackers or crostini while watching a movie in your living room, pretending you’re at the theater. Stay safe, friends.

Ingredients (Makes 1 cup; recipe doubles easily)

1/2 pound bacon, diced Continue reading

Easter Bread

Crowded Earth Kitchen

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Easter Bread is a rich, dark, hearty bread just perfect served with an exuberant Easter dinner.  Bold flavors of rye and whole wheat are tempered with a bit of milk and the soothing, subtle sweetness of molasses.  Including rye flour means this bread will take a bit longer to rise, but the flavors are worth the wait.  Let’s play with flour!

Ingredients (makes one large loaf)

2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup dry milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup blackstrap molasses

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 cup rye flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

1 egg yolk

Directions

picture392Step 1) Combine yeast, warm water, and sugar in a large bowl.  Stir and let the yeast bloom for 1 or 2 minutes, until the surface looks creamy.

Step 2) Add dry milk, salt, molasses, and butter.  Mix well.  A small electric mixer (on low…

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