Creamy Asparagus Soup

asparagus

Asparagus is at it’s lowest price of the entire year right now, at least where I live. I bought a few bundles and used some to make a pot of this amazing soup. If you’d like to stock up (this soup really is that good), simply follow the directions below and stop at Step 3. You can freeze the partially prepared soup well into autumn, then thaw and continue with the last few steps. So easy!

Ingredients (Serves 4) Continue reading

Kids in the Kitchen: Cheesy Tuna Casserole

mac cheeseThis tasty weeknight supper is easy enough for children to prepare, and they’ll feel proud to serve the family! Cheesy Tuna Casserole is not a “from scratch” recipe, but then, not every meal needs to be. By starting with an ingredient familiar to children everywhere – boxed shells and cheese – you’re more likely to have cooperation from even the fussiest of pint-size diners. The added vegetables and protein aren’t so… suspicious… when the noodles and cheese are already a sure hit.

As long as an adult handles the boiling water and oven transfer, the kids can do the rest. Sit back and let them cook you dinner for a change!

Ingredients (Serves 6; recipe can be easily cut in half) Continue reading

Best Lobster Roll in Salem!

dotty-ray-s-lunchFirst things first. A few hours after arriving in Salem, we ventured into a cute little restaurant right off of the touristy Essex Street pedestrian mall. We were able to escape the bright sun while still enjoying the open air, grabbed a quick bite to eat (grilled cheese with fries) and listened to some really excellent live music.

However…

If we weren’t jet lagged, we might have realized before we asked for a table that restaurants in touristy areas also have touristy prices! We passed on the $25 lobster roll. Seriously – who charges $25 for a lobster roll when you can practically see the ocean from the restaurant kitchen? I digress.

Time to contact my good friends GOOGLE and UBER!

A quick web search for the best local lobster roll and where do Salem locals eat pointed us squarely in one direction – Dotty and Ray’s Restaurant. Located about a mile from The Hawthorne Hotel, Dotty and Ray’s is across the river from the touristy town center in residential Salem, where locals live and eat. Google says it’s a 16 minute walk. Uber says it’s a $4 ride. Take your pick, but GO!

For $12.95 you’ll get a lobster roll that’s so generously portioned and delicious, I dare you not to go back the very next day for more (we did!). Look! Look and imagine how delicious this is!
lobster

Casual, delicious, regional home cooking with great service and very reasonable prices -what more does a hungry tourist need? It was fun to watch the staff visiting with other diners in a familiar way; Dotty and Ray’s is clearly the place to catch up on local news over lunch. Even as outsiders, we were welcomed and enjoyed a bit of conversation with our server. It felt a bit clandestine to be the only tourists in a beloved local establishment, as if we’d discovered something too magical to share.

scallops

Scallop Roll

(Magical… Salem… see what I did there?)

Their scallop roll was amazingly sweet and also generously portioned. We substituted the fries for mashed potatoes, which were buttery and wonderful. If you’re in the Salem area, don’t miss out on lunch at the tucked away gem that is Dotty and Rays.

Vintage Recipe: 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

WIN_20160106_163123Directions

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.

Pepper Steak Stew

beef2This simple slow-cooker recipe offers up the hearty, savory flavors of traditional pepper steak, but uses a less expensive cut of beef. I like to double this recipe and freeze half for workday lunches Enjoy – your tummy and your wallet will thank you!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat Continue reading

Zucchini “Spaghetti” and Meatballs

zucchini-spaghetti-and-meatballs

The meal shown above, which includes three meatballs under that yummy grated parmesan, can be yours for just 360 calories. The same volume of canned ravioli (which is kinda gross anyway) will set you back a whopping 730 calories, and a comparable bowl of traditional spaghetti and meatballs weighs in at almost 800 calories.

A person of average weight would need to do over 1,200 sit ups to burn 800 calories.

Let that sink in.

The trick to enjoying savory, satisfying red sauce, meatballs, and parmesan cheese is to enjoy them with spiral cut zucchini instead of pasta. Yes, zucchini. All you need to cut a zucchini into spaghetti-like strands is about 10 seconds and this device:

veggetti

If it looks gimmicky, rest assured – the Veggetti is Crowded Earth Kitchen tested, and we LOVE it! For the record, we have not been compensated in any way by Veggetti for this post – we’re sharing this with you because this product can truly transform your eating habits, helping you to reduce calories!

 Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer, Makes Veggie Pasta

Simply twist a medium size zucchini through the Veggetti into your favorite pasta bowl. Top with three meatballs, 1 cup of simple, homemade red sauce, and 1 tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Viola! A hearty dinner with a healthy calorie count, no sacrifice required!

Eat well! BE well!