Potato Leek Soup

S1Hearty potatoes, earthy leeks, rich butter, and savory broth combine perfectly in this recipe to offer a lush, warm autumn meal. You’ll be impressed with how simple this soup is to prepare, leaving you plenty of time for carving pumpkins, jumping in piles of leaves, or enjoying an evening fire.

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These leeks from my garden are about 1 inch in diameter, but leeks can easily grow to 2 inches in diameter.

If you haven’t cooked with leeks Continue reading

Peanut Pumpkin Soup

Soup1Rich and earthy, warm and savory, this is a perfect soup for a crisp autumn evening. You can use canned pumpkin to make a pot of Peanut Pumpkin Soup quickly, or roast a pie pumpkin and puree the flesh for added depth of flavor. It’s entirely up to you. Let’s get started! Continue reading

Eat Your Veggies Lentil Soup

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This soup is perfect “10” nutritionally. Simply put, there is nothing in this recipe that ISN’T good for you! The lentils themselves are chock full of fiber, protein, and iron. Carrots, greens, and salsa veggies offer a rainbow of vitamins and minerals. In earlier posts, we’ve discussed the powerful anti-angiogenic properties of onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cumin. There’s a whole lot to love in this soup… and it Continue reading

Salem Seafood Chowder

Soup1Chowder, or Chowda as the locals say, is popular in Salem. Many diners and pubs feature clam chowder high on their menu as either an appetizer or a complete meal with fresh bread. Two establishments, Tavern on the Green in the Hawthorne Hotel and also the wildly popular Red’s Sandwich Shop, offered amazingly delicious seafood chowder. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve done our best to recreate authentic seafood chowder, loosely based upon Continue reading

Detox Gazpacho

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Put the chocolate Easter bunny down and back away slowly. I hear the siren song of sugar right along with ya, but we can do this! Instead of eating something which will lead us to wallow in guilt later, let’s eat something healthy and invigorating! This soup is one of my favorite detox foods, so I’m sharing it again.

Springtime tends to make vegetable lovers giddy with excitement. Unfortunately, it also makes us impatient, as the fresh, ripe flavors we crave become  s  l  o  w  l  y   available. Right now, the zucchini at the market (not yet from my garden) looks fresh and delicious. Cucumbers and peppers aren’t half bad right now, either.

But those supermarket tomatoes?

Sigh.

Don’t even bother with springtime tomatoes. I think they’re just little cardboard orbs disguised as tomatoes.

So, what’s a vegetable lover to do? Cheat. Relax, I’m not telling you to cheat on your taxes or cheat on your calculus exam. We’re going to cheat by avoiding fresh tomatoes altogether, even in a dish which ordinarily features fresh tomatoes quite prominently.

How are we going to cheat? We’re going to use salsa and vegetable juice. Stay with me for a minute.

Salsa, whether home canned or store bought, is often a superior alternative to out of season tomatoes. The blend of tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices offers a whole lot more flavor than whatever was picked green and trucked up from far away, gassed along the way to artificially force a red color (without doing a darn thing for flavor). Likewise, vegetable juice forms a perfect – and perfectly obvious – base for a simple gazpacho. If you don’t believe me, try this recipe. If I’m wrong, post a comment below!

WIN_20150408_091740Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 small zucchini, peeled and chopped

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped (save one slice unpeeled for garnish later)

1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped (set aside a small piece for garnish later)

1 red pepper, seeded and chopped (set aside a small piece for garnish, later)

1 clove fresh garlic, diced

1 cup salsa

2 cups tomato-based vegetable juice (such as V-8)

Directions

Add all ingredients except garnish to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve well chilled and sprinkled with colorful diced vegetables. If you’d like, add a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

World’s Easiest Chicken Chili

chiliHow  easy is this chicken chili?

It’s so easy, you’ll be eating chicken chili faster than you’d be eating if you picked up dinner at a fast food drive-thru. Don’t believe me? Set your stopwatch, and let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (you can buy this frozen or even canned if you’d like) Continue reading

Corn and Bacon Chowder

WIN_20160812_220110In my neck of the woods, sweet corn is in season. Hooray! The problem is, the season for fresh sweet corn seems to last about 5 minutes (OK, maybe 2 or 3 weeks) and then it’s all gone.  😦  Corn and Bacon Chowder freezes well, and is a great recipe for preserving the awesome flavor of fresh sweet corn to enjoy all winter long. I make BIG batches of this soup, based upon a recipe found in an old Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, to stock my freezer. The recipe below makes a smaller quantity, but can be easily doubled. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 8 servings)

8 ears of corn (or 4 cups corn kernels) Continue reading

Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup

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Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup

In my corner of the world, summer is short! Hot, sunny days are for swimming, reading in the hammock, and playing in the garden. Even with as much as I love to cook, now is not the time for spending hours in the kitchen!

Three Ingredient Shrimp Soup will have you back outside in five minutes flat. That’s right, this savory, cold soup takes mere minutes to prepare, and makes an excellent Continue reading

Signature Recipe: Japanese Shoyu Ramen

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The results of Crowded Earth Kitchen’s ramen poll are in! Today we’re making Crowded Earth Kitchen’s version of Shoyu Ramen, the most popular type of ramen which is flavored with soy sauce. The recipe below is pretty simple to make, and offers great flavor without a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. We’re also using pork tenderloin instead of pork belly, because pork tenderloin is more affordable and more readily available in much of the US. If you’ve enjoyed ramen with pork belly, I think you’ll find the taste of this recipe very comparable.

Two tips: First, don’t skimp on the pork stock or the chicken stock. If you have time to make your own, that’s what I recommend. If not, look for good quality stock from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Ramen “is” the broth… if the broth is just OK, your finished product will be just OK. If your broth is delicious, your ramen bowls will be delicious! Second, if you have time, it’s worth preparing your pork tenderloin the day before you enjoy your ramen bowls.

Let’s get started!

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Dried shiitakes, ginger, onion, and garlic

Ingredients (Serves 6)

16 ounces dried wheat flour ramen noodles

1 cup thinly sliced greens (I used baby bok choy)

1 cup sliced bamboo shoots

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

(Optional) 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into six pieces

For the meat:

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white wine (I used Umeshu)

For the broth:

3 quarts pork stock

1 quart chicken stock

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20160701_164234Step 1) Prepare your pork tenderloin. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, and white wine to make a paste. Rub this paste all over your pork tenderloin. Let your pork tenderloin rest in a baking pan, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight (overnight is best). Then, roast your pork tenderloin, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check your pork tenderloin with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Allow your pork tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and refrigerate.

WIN_20160701_154316Step 2) Prepare your broth. In a large pot, combine pork stock, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by half. This will take approximately an hour, depending upon how gently or vigorously your pot simmers. I prefer a slow simmer. Allow broth to cool, then ladle or pour through a sieve into a second pot. This will strain out all of the flavor additives (mushrooms, onion pieces, garlic and ginger), leaving you with a clear, flavor-packed ramen broth! At this point, you can freeze your broth for future use, refrigerate your broth to use tomorrow, or return your broth to a gentle boil and proceed with Step 3!

Step 3) Prepare your noodles. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to package directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR NOODLES. When in doubt, it’s better to undercook the noodles a bit, as they will continue to cook in Step 4. Mushy noodles make terrible ramen. Seriously… don’t overcook the noodles!

Step 4) Assemble and enjoy! Here’s the fun part. First, transfer a serving of cooked noodles to a large single-serving bowl (your biggest cereal bowls will work). Second, arrange a few slices of pork tenderloin, a hard boiled egg half, a few bamboo shoots, and a few sliced greens around the edges of the bowl. Don’t mix up the toppings like you would for American-style soup… each ramen topping should occupy its own place along the edge of the bowl. Third, carefully ladle hot broth over the top of everything, to warm the ingredients. The broth should just barely cover the top the noodles… don’t drown your ramen bowl in broth. Fourth, place a small square of nori on the top of your bowl and serve immediately!

When you make this ramen, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are now as ramen obsessed as we are here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

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!

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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.

 

Excellent Beef Stock

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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

Chinese Tang Yuan Chicken Soup

WIN_20160424_133707Tang Yuan are glutinous rice balls – easy to prepare, versatile in recipes, and a delicious comfort food. In my German-American kitchen, the equivalent would be dumplings. Today we are making a simple chicken soup with Tang Yuan. Children and grown-ups alike have given this soup rave reviews. I think you’ll enjoy it, too!

One friendly tip: There are only a few ingredients in this recipe, so each of them is important! Please don’t skimp on the quality of the chicken stock by substituting cans of chicken broth or cubes of bouillon. Chicken broth is a watery, less flavorful cousin of true chicken stock… you’ll taste the difference in this soup. Bouillon cubes are mostly salt.

WIN_20160424_132041Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 cup glutinous rice flour (sometimes called “sweet rice flour” or “sticky rice flour”)

3/4 cup boiling water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 quart good quality chicken stock

1 cup diced celery (or substitute carrot)

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

Salt to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt)

WIN_20160424_132455Directions

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

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

Step 3) Grease the bottom of a large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil. Transfer the microwaved rice flour mixture to the greased bowl. Use your knuckles to press down on the mixture, kneading and compressing the mixture into a dough. Do this for at least five minutes, or until the mixture has formed a smooth dough. If the mixture is too hot for your hands, use the flat bottom of a cup or a mason jar to press down on the dough.

Step 4) Break off tiny pieces of dough and roll them into balls about the size of marbles. Be careful not to roll your Tang Yuan balls too large, especially if you are feeding children! Small, marble size Tang Yuan are more desirable.

Step 5) In a medium size pot, heat chicken stock to just below boiling. Add Tang Yuan balls, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes add celery, ginger, and salt. Cook for an additional two minutes. Serve and enjoy!