Springtime Tea Party

 

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Recently, I hosted a Springtime Tea Party. It was great fun! If you have a few friends you haven’t seen in a while (don’t we all?), consider inviting them over for a simple tea. Here are a few suggestions!

First, don’t worry about being matchy-matchy.

I used an inexpensive tablecloth to cover an old, scratched up kitchen table. It looked juuussst fine, and didn’t require a big investment. My little fruit bowls are completely different from my plates, and yet they worked together nicely. Those little dishes of chocolate? Mismatched! The napkins? Borrowed from my mother! You get the idea.

Second, if you don’t want to cook from scratch, don’t.

A tea party does not require hours of slaving away in the kitchen. If you don’t feel like spending prep time in your kitchen, here is a “recipe” for a fuss-free tea party:

Boil a pot of water, and steep a pot of tea! Offer cream and sugar on the side.

Break one or two high-quality chocolate bars into bite size pieces, and arrange the pieces in a small serving dish.

Layer a few cups of berries in a pretty bowl. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Purchase a tray of cookies or scones. My local Aldi offers a surprising variety of delicious cookies at very reasonable prices!

gazpachoThinly slice a loaf of artisan bread from your local bakery. Spread each slice with butter or cream cheese, and top with thin slices of cucumber or prosciutto. Delicious!

Feel like cooking?

If you’d like to prepare a dish or two from scratch, here are a few suggestions:

croque ingredientsSpringtime Gazpacho served in little tea cups makes a lovely chilled starter!

Mini Croque Monsieurs make lovely tea sandwiches!

Rainbow Shortcake makes a beautiful, individually plated dessert!

 

 

rainbow shortcake

Life is short. Enjoy your friends!

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!

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!