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!

Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

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Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup

Garden fresh broccoli is everywhere this time of year, and this soup recipe is just right. Too many cheesy broccoli soup recipes are essentially a brick of melted down processed “cheese” food-like substances with a stalk of broccoli waved over the top. Steer clear. Those glumpy orange soups are fat laden and nutritionally weak.

This recipe is chock full of fresh broccoli! It’s flavored with delicious chicken stock and just enough real, melted cheese to keep things interesting. One serving of Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup offers 4 grams of fiber and over 200% of your daily need for Vitamin C, all for about 100 calories and very little effort in the kitchen. Enjoy!

broccoli

Broccoli in the Garden

Ingredients (Makes 8 servings, freezes well)

8 cups broccoli, cut small

1 medium onion, cut small

4 cups good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable broth for a vegan option)

1/2 teaspoon salt (or, use your favorite seasoned salt blend)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients except for the cheddar cheese in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until broccoli is soft.

Step 2) Once the broccoli is soft, remove heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Step 3) Puree the cooked broccoli mixture with an immersion blender. If the mixture is too thick, add more chicken stock or water (1/2 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Step 4) Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese and serve!

Variations

For cheesier soup, add 1 cup of shredded muenster or fontina cheese along with the 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Don’t use mozzarella… it just doesn’t work well in this soup.

For a more savory flavor, add 1/2 cup of cooked, crumbled bacon along with the shredded cheddar cheese. This adds calories, but tastes amazing!

For a pretty presentation, sprinkle the top of each bowl of Easy Cheesy Broccoli Soup with diced red pepper and one or two seasoned croutons.

 

Kohlrabi Roll-Ups

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One Kohlrabi Roll-Up makes a lovely side dish. Two Kohlrabi Roll-Ups sprinkled with cheese and served with crusty bread makes a delicious vegetarian dinner!

It’s kohlrabi season in my neck of the woods. As excited as I am to see farm stands re-opening for the summer season, the selection in early June is pretty limited. Kohlrabi, peas, more kohlrabi, more peas… you get the idea. It’s a shame so many cooks discard the leaves from their kohlrabi. The leaves are both nutritious and delicious! Today we’re using them a bit like cabbage leaves, and are using fresh kohlrabi leaves to roll up a hearty filling of seasoned rice, tomatoes, corn, and peppers. Feel free to add ground beef and/or top with grated cheese if you’d like.

This is a frugal recipe, and makes use of an ingredient that many people overlook – my grandmother would approve. (Grandma might have used different spices and found a way to work in a dumpling or two, but she’d still approve.)

Let’s make the most of our early summer veggies!

WIN_20160501_135603Ingredients (Serves 6)

12 – 18 large kohlrabi leaves

1 cup basmati rice, uncooked

2 cups diced tomatoes with juice (fresh or canned; either way, keep the juice)

1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen)

1/2 cup bell pepper, red or green, diced

1 tablespoon onion, finely diced (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder (mild or hot)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup water (or chicken broth)

1 cup tomato juice

WIN_20160501_142617Directions

Step 1) Combine rice, 2 cups diced tomatoes with juice, corn, bell pepper, onion, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, and water or broth in a large skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook over low heat for approximately 20 minutes (check after 15 minutes), until liquid is absorbed WIN_20160501_140920and rice is tender. Remove from heat.

Step 2) While rice mixture is cooking, carefully cut the center stem (sometimes called a vein) from each kohlrabi leaf. Overlap the two sides so that each leaf forms an approximate oval shape without a visible hole in the middle.

WIN_20160501_142747Step 3) Place a small amount of the rice mixture (about 2 tablespoons) on the center of each kohlrabi leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf in toward the middle (shown), then carefully roll up the leaf from the bottom. Place each kohlrabi roll-up seam side down in a lightly greased baking dish (I used two small baking dishes and froze one to enjoy later).

WIN_20160501_143930Step 4) Pour 1 cup of tomato juice over the top of your kohlrabi roll-ups. and cover the baking dish(es) with foil. Bake in a preheated, 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. If desired, uncover and top with shredded cheese for the last 10 minutes of baking time.

 

Rum Caramel Corn

WIN_20160528_161718While I look forward to summertime and love my garden, I’ll confess to enjoying a bit of air conditioning and an indoor breeze under a ceiling fan after playing in the dirt under the hot sun. I’ll also confess to feeling hungry after working in the garden, and unfortunately there’s nothing to harvest from the garden just yet!

Today I sated my post-gardening sweet tooth with this easy recipe for Rum Caramel Corn. I used a banged up old pot to cook the caramel. Boiling caramel may (or may not) cause a harmless, slight discoloration inside of a pan. To clean the pan in which you boiled the caramel, here’s an easy tip: fill the pan about 2 inches deep with water, and bring the water to a boil on the stove. When the water is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the pan. Immediately cover the pan and remove from heat. After about 15 minutes, when the water is still warm but comfortable to touch, scrub the inside of the pan. Voila! The caramel residue will wash away.

WIN_20160528_155729Ingredients (Makes 15 cups)

15 cups air popped popcorn

1/2 cup real butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 tablespoons light molasses

1 teaspoon rum flavoring

WIN_20160528_160950Directions

Step 1) Combine butter, brown sugar, light corn syrup, and molasses in an old saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Allow caramel mixture to boil gently for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in rum flavoring.

WIN_20160528_161707Step 3) Spread popcorn on baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Carefully drizzle the caramel mixture over the popcorn. Use a metal spatula to gently lift the coated popcorn. This spreads the caramel onto more of the popcorn, and also helps to prevent sticking.

Enjoy when cool!

 

Excellent Beef Stock

onion soup

Excellent Beef Stock can be used to create awesome meals such as French onion soup!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we are encouraging every cook (well, every non-vegan cook) to master the simple craft of making an excellent pot of beef stock. Quality beef stock sold in gourmet shops is delicious, but outrageously expensive. Those supermarket cans of stocks and broths? Well, read the label. Less expensive than their gourmet shop counterparts, those cans are over-salted and still overpriced. Some commercial food manufacturers are shameless enough to add caramel coloring to their beef stocks and broths. That’s right… the same artificial coloring added to soft drinks is added to beef stock!

Some recipes for beef stock call for the use of whole vegetables (i.e., a few carrots, or a whole onion). We think that’s just a little too precious. The fact is, you get the same flavor from vegetable scraps and peels, so why use up perfectly good vegetables making beef stock? We’re using peels (see below), and are sure you can find a good use for the peeled veggies themselves.  🙂 Let’s get started!

WIN_20160430_104540Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

3 pounds beef bones (ask the butcher at your local market – bones are always available)

Peel and outer layer of Continue reading

Shrimp Spring Rolls

WIN_20160502_173224Here’s to second chances! The first time I tried making spring rolls, they were a disaster. I swore I’d never attempt them again. Well, I’ve learned a few things since then and as it turns out, spring rolls really aren’t difficult to make at all! My loss is your gain – thanks to my mistakes, I’ll be able to help you avoid a few pitfalls and make delicious spring rolls on your very first attempt.

Fun fact: spring roll wrappers and vermicelli noodles are made of exactly the same thing… rice flour. Many spring roll recipes Continue reading

Korean Garaetteok

WIN_20160424_142917Korean Garaetteok, a type of rice noodle, is fast becoming a staple freezer item here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. These noodles are fun to remove from the freezer on busy weeknights and use to quickly jazz up dinner. Often, I add a cup or two of frozen Korean Garaetteok into soups during the last 15 minutes of simmer time. Occasionally, I’ll allow a batch of Korean Garaetteok to thaw on the countertop before stir-frying in sesame oil for about five minutes. Stir-fried Garaetteok can be tossed with vegetables for a savory side dish, or lightly coated with honey and crushed peanuts for a fun dessert. Enjoy this versatile item!

WIN_20160424_122115Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups)

2 cups rice flour

1 1/4 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Directions

Step 1) Combine rice flour, boiling water, salt and sugar in a medium size, microwave safe bowl. Stir together with a fork.

WIN_20160424_122945Step 2) Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small edge uncovered to allow steam to vent. Microwave bowl for 2 minutes. Stir, cover again, and microwave an additional 2 minutes.

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large bowl with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Transfer rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Knead with your knuckles (pressing into the mixture) for 5 minutes, until a smooth dough forms. If mixture is too hot for your hands, try pressing into the mixture with the bottom of a mason jar instead.

WIN_20160424_125954Step 4) Grease countertop with remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Divide dough into 4 pieces, and use your hands to roll each piece on the greased countertop into a 12 inch length.

Step 5) Set the lengths of dough aside for one hour, uncovered. This will dry the dough slightly, allowing it to slice easier.

Step 6) After 1 hour, slice the dough on a diagonal into bite-size pieces approximately 1/2 inch thick. From this point, do one of the following:

  • Add your Korean Garaetteok to a pot of soup and simmer for 15 minutes. Delicious!
  • Stir-fry your Korean Garaetteok in sesame oil for about 5 minutes, until crispy on the outside. Toss with cooked veggies for a fun side dish, or drizzle with honey and crushed peanuts for dessert!
  • Freeze your uncooked Korean Garaetteok in an airtight container for later use.

Happy Cooking!

 

 

Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam

strawberry jamIt’s that time of year again, friends – Wahoo! Strawberry season! To be fair, strawberry season is still a few weeks away in my Northern climate. However, my sister is visiting from Arkansas, and brought several boxes of fresh picked berries with her (isn’t she awesome?).

The thing about strawberries is, they’re delicious for about one day after they are picked. If you have a large quantity of strawberries to preserve, you need to work fast! Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam is super fast! Ready… Set… GO!

Ingredients (Makes 4  cups)

5 cups of strawberries, washed and cut in half (green hulls removed)

5 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

Directions

Step 1) Place halved strawberries in a large pot. Mash the strawberries a few times with a potato masher. Add sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.

Step 2) Bring strawberry mixture to a full, vigorous boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. You want this mixture to really boil… it should boil enough that bubbles continue to cover the surface of the mixture even when you are stirring!

Step 3) When your strawberry mixture has reached a FULL boil (this will take at least ten minutes, maybe longer), stir in the pouch of pectin. Allow the mixture to return to a FULL boil, and boil with stirring for two minutes.

Step 4) Remove the pot from the heat and add grated lemon zest. Stir gently. Allow your Yummy Strawberry Freezer Jam to cool before ladling into storage containers. This jam will keep nicely in the refrigerator for two weeks, or can be frozen for up to six months. [As if strawberry jam would be neglected for six months – ha!]

 

Good For You Garlic Dip

WIN_20160201_190240Garlicky, tangy, creamy, delicious – what are you waiting for? Good For You Garlic Dip is fabulous with carrot sticks or tortilla chips. A generous 1/2 cup serving contains over 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of dietary fiber, and a big punch of calcium, iron, and potassium – all for around 100 calories!

WIN_20160201_131225Ingredients (Makes 2 cups) Continue reading

Tropical Flourless Cookies

WIN_20160210_155927I’ll admit it. I was a bit skeptical of flourless baking in the past. After finding success with Grandpa John’s Flourless Chocolate Cake, I was inspired! These Tropical Flourless Cookies, packed full of flavor from very ripe bananas, flaked coconut, and chocolate, are fabulous. In fact, they’re so fabulous that you’ll never even notice the lack of flour or added refined sugar! Give ’em a whirl and let me know what you think.

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160210_151232Ingredients (Makes 24 cookies)

3 very ripe bananas (skins should be black)

1 cup flaked coconut

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips Continue reading

French Macarons

French Macarons

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French Macarons might be the best dessert to ever emerge from Crowded Earth Kitchen. How’s that for an endorsement to try this recipe?

A Google search for “French Macarons” will turn up… wait for it… 630,000 hits. Does the world really need 630,001? Yes. Here’s why! You see, here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we sorted through a good long many of those 630,000 links, picking up tips and ideas along the way. The end result is Continue reading

Carrot Soup

WIN_20160124_154246This soup is very easy to prepare, super healthy, and really delicious – what more can I say? The bright orange color, subtle sweetness, and lack of anything suspiciously green means that children will devour this soup! Feel free to adjust the curry powder to suit your taste. If you are feeding a particularly reluctant veggie eater, substitute the parsley garnish for a sprinkle of brown sugar. This one is guaranteed to please!

Ingredients

2 quarts stock (vegetable stock and chicken stock work equally well)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 pounds of carrots, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks

15 ounce can of coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or hot, whichever you prefer)

parsley to garnish

WIN_20160124_145222Directions

Step 1) Bring stock, garlic, onion, and carrots to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer gently until carrots are very soft, approximately 30 minutes.

Step 2) Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Puree carrot mixture with an immersion blender.

Step 3) Stir in coconut milk, black pepper, and curry powder. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Garnish and serve warm. Enjoy your carrot soup!

Peach Mustard Baked Chicken

WIN_20160118_204716Chicken thighs are my favorite for baking and roasting. They are juicier (and less expensive!) than chicken breasts, meatier than wings, and contain a more favorable mix of white and dark meat than drumsticks. The uniform size and thickness of chicken thighs means they are easy to arrange in a baking pan and cook evenly every time. This Peach Mustard Baked Chicken recipe offers a simple preparation for chicken thighs. We’re combining the classic flavor of honey mustard with the bright sweetness of peaches to make a marinading paste. If fresh peaches are out of season, no worries. Frozen peach slices will work just fine!

Ingredients (Feeds a crowd!)

5 pounds chicken thighs (10 – 12 chicken thighs)

1 cup peach slices (fresh or frozen)

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons brown mustard

freshly ground black pepper

Additional peach slices to garnish

WIN_20160118_173742Directions

Step 1) Thaw peach slices if frozen. Puree honey and mustard with 1 cup peach slices until a smooth paste forms.

Step 2) Arrange chicken thighs on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Using a very sharp knife, score the skin on the top of each chicken thigh in one or two places.

3-Piece Baking Sheet Set

Step 3) Rub the peach mustard paste onto each chicken thigh.

Step 4) Bake chicken thighs, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes. Check the temperature of a chicken thigh with a meat thermometer. When the internal temperature (not against a bone!) reaches 165 degrees F, your Peach Mustard Baked Chicken is ready to enjoy! Garnish with additional peach slices just before bringing your chicken to the table.

I recommend serving this with fresh baked cornbread and a green salad. Delicious!

 

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!