Lazy Cheesy Eggplant

WIN_20160328_085536I love cooking with eggplant – it’s very low in calories and versatile – but I don’t always think of eggplant when I’m looking for something fast. Lazy Cheesy Eggplant requires only a few minutes to prepare, and a half hour in the oven… the results are addictively delicious! Each high fiber serving of Lazy Cheesy Eggplant contains approximately 125 calories.

Side note: We’re using frozen eggplant here, because the texture Continue reading

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

Kids in the Kitchen: Pueblo Corn Cakes

WIN_20160314_190113Recently, my neighborhood public library held a 10 cent book sale. 10 cents per book! I picked out as many children’s books as I could carry, to keep the kiddos busy at home. Among the books I selected was this Pueblo Indian Cookbook: Pueblo Indian Cookbook: Recipes from the Pueblos of the American Southwest.

When one of the kiddos came to me, cookbook in hand, and asked what we could make today, I searched for something simple that we could create with ingredients already in the house. We made a variation of Corn Griddle Cakes, adjusting the liquids slightly to account for the fact that we used frozen corn kernels. The kitchen apprentices here at Crowded Earth Kitchen were quite pleased with the fruits of their labor, and enjoyed these Pueblo Corn Cakes with maple syrup. They think you’ll enjoy them, as well!

WIN_20160314_184940Ingredients (Makes about 16 Pueblo Corn Cakes, about 3″ in diameter) Continue reading

Carrot Cake Pancakes

WIN_20160116_102115Carrot Cake Pancakes make a lovely weekend breakfast, and are a great way to add extra fruits and vegetables to an otherwise carbohydrate-based meal. The flavor of these pancakes is subtle, which children seem to prefer. If you’d like to ramp up the flavor a bit, double the quantity of cinnamon and cloves.

This recipe makes a rather large batch of pancakes, perfect for freezing. I freeze a few small pancakes along with additional pineapple in single serving containers for quick weekday breakfasts. Carrot Cake Pancakes reheat easily on a baking pan in the oven (approximately 5 minutes at 350 degrees), and can also be microwaved.

WIN_20160116_095823Ingredients (Makes about 24 pancakes – they freeze well!)

1 cup finely grated carrot

2 eggs

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup small pineapple chunks

WIN_20160116_101509Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients except for pineapple. Blend well.

Step 2) Ladle 1/4 cup portions of batter onto a well greased skillet or griddle. Place a few small pineapple chunks onto each pancake, and cook over medium heat for approximately 2 minutes per side.

Step 3) Be sure to grease the skillet or griddle in between each batch of pancakes, because the pineapple has a tendency to stick.

Step 4) Serve with butter and additional pineapple. For an added layer of flavor, serve with Carrot Cake Jam. Enjoy your Carrot Cake Pancakes!

Peach Dumplings

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These peach dumplings taste like a fresh peach pie, but are easier to serve. There’s no slicing – just spoon the desired number of little peach dumplings onto each plate. For added flair, garnish with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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WIN_20160109_173944Ingredients (Serves 5 – 6)

4 large peaches, quartered (frozen peach slices will work)

1 roll-out refrigerator crust (or homemade pie crust dough)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

WIN_20160109_172816Directions

Step 1) Roll out the pie crust on a cutting board. Use a pizza cutter to divide the crust into 16 pieces. Smaller pieces can be combined and rolled out to make larger pieces; I used rectangle (mostly) shaped pieces.

WIN_20160109_174501Step 2) Wrap one piece of pie crust around each peach slice. The crust doesn’t need to go all the way around, but it’s helpful if the crust is long enough to tuck underneath each peach slice.

Step 3) Arrange crust-covered peach slices close together in a lightly greased glass pie dish or tart pan as shown. Sprinkle with WIN_20160109_184551chopped pecans.

Step 4) In a small saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and spices. Stir over low heat until butter is melted and all ingredients are combined. Pour sauce evenly over peaches.

Step 5) Bake Peach Dumplings in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Serve warm.

 

Frozen Chocolate Banana Tart

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!)

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WIN_20160105_142824Directions

Step 1) Roll out your pie crust and use it to line a tart pan. Trim crust even with the rim of the tart pan, and poke a few holes in the pie crust with a fork (this helps to prevent air bubbles). Bake the pie crust according to the package directions, until the pie crust is light golden brown. I baked my pie crust in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Allow your baked pie crust to cool completely.

Step 2) Combine chocolate, half-and-half, and rum cream in a saucepan. Melt together over LOW heat, stirring constantly. This will only take a few minutes… be patient, and keep the heat LOW! Burned chocolate is gross.

Step 3) When chocolate is completely melted, remove saucepan from heat. Allow to cool until close to room temperature. Mixture will thicken a little, but shouldn’t solidify.

WIN_20160105_145524Step 4) Spread a very thin layer of cooled chocolate on the bottom of the baked tart shell. Use just enough chocolate to coat the crust.

Step 5) Slice bananas into 1/4 inch slices. Cover the chocolate on the bottom of the baked tart shell evenly with 1-2 layers of banana slices.

Step 6) Carefully pour the chocolate mixture over the banana slices. Spread chocolate so that the banana slices are completely covered; the back of a large spoon works well for this.

Step 7) Freeze the chocolate banana tart for at least two hours or overnight. Slice and serve!

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WIN_20160105_181337

Delicious!

High Protein Breakfast Smoothie

WIN_20160207_103215

It is a fact, at least in the US, that married men have a longer life expectancy than single men. Plenty of married men have joked that this isn’t really true, life just seems longer, but I’ll leave that one alone.  😉  All kidding aside, I do what I can to look out for my favorite guy’s health, and that begins with breakfast. Favorite Guy isn’t much of a breakfast eater, but he works long days this time of year, and (I think) would benefit from quick, high protein breakfast. This breakfast drink packs upward of 15 grams of protein, and is the latest trick in my sinister plot to keep Favorite Guy healthy, breakfast fan or not!

Ingredients (Makes 1 high protein smoothie)

1 Tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 Tablespoon real peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

1 Tablespoon Chia seeds

1/4 cup frozen berries (any variety, I like blueberries)

1 cup skim milk

Directions

Simply blend all ingredients together until smooth. So simple!

Pilar’s Spinach Noodle Casserole

WIN_20160103_154944

If you don’t have a friend like Pilar, you don’t know what you’re missing! Pilar is the type of girlfriend with whom you can have a serious, soul-searching conversation one day, and know she’ll never break a confidence. The very next day, you might find Pilar wearing a tiara while mixing blue cocktails never-before-enjoyed by anyone over the age of 21 (and somehow, she won’t look ridiculous). Pilar keeps her friends guessing – and laughing – and isn’t that what makes life fun? This is Pilar’s Spinach Noodle Casserole recipe. Like Pilar, it is fabulous. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 ounce package of frozen spinach

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

8 ounces of wide egg noodles, cooked

8 ounces sour cream

1 pound container of cottage cheese

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon tarragon

salt and pepper to taste

bread crumbs and parmesan cheese to garnish

WIN_20160103_150927Directions

Step 1) Sauté onion and garlic in butter until golden. Add frozen spinach and cook until thawed. Allow excess liquid to cook off of spinach mixture.

Step 2) Add nutmeg, tarragon, salt and pepper to spinach mixture and stir well. [Note: I substituted herbes de provence for the tarragon because it’s what I had on hand, and this recipe still turned out lovely.]

Step 3) Add spinach mixture, sour cream, and cottage cheese to the cooked noodles. Stir gently and ladle into a greased casserole dish.

Step 4) Sprinkle with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. As Pilar says, “Bake at 350 degrees until golden, eat until you are full.” I baked this Spinach Noodle Casserole for approximately 20 minutes.

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Pilar’s Spinach Noodle Casserole

Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Muffins

WIN_20150910_154140I enjoy pumpkin spice treats at my local green-awning’ed coffee shop as much as the next person, but Holy Falling Leaves, that habit gets expensive! This recipe will help you reign in your spending while still relishing a pumpkin spice goodie. 😉 The perfect grown-up treat for autumn, Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Muffins pair beautifully with your morning cup of coffee at home. The low-fat ricotta adds richness and protein, while the abundance of spices allows us to keep the sugar content pretty low. Try a batch of Pumpkin Spice Ricotta Muffins today, and let me know what you think!

WIN_20150910_145123Ingredients (Makes 12 large muffins or 36 bite-size mini muffins)

1 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned pumpkin will work)

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese (or substitute quark)

1 egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon mace (or substitute 1/4 cup nutmeg)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

WIN_20150910_145919Directions

Step 1) Blend together pumpkin puree, ricotta, egg, and oil until smooth. Add sugar and spices. Mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to pumpkin mixture. Mix well.

Step 3) Spoon batter into muffin liners or greased muffin tins – liners or tins should be 2/3 full. Sprinkle tops with a little bit of sugar (optional).

Step 4) Bake muffins in a preheated 400 degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a pumpkin muffin comes out clean. Full size muffins will require about 18 minutes baking time. Mini muffins will require 10 – 12 minutes baking time.

FYI: These muffins freeze really well, and taste just as delicious when thawed and reheated. The trick is to seal them air tight before freezing! I wrap cooled muffins individually in either aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then place the wrapped muffins into gallon size freezer bags. Be sure your pumpkin muffins are completely cool before wrapping! Trapped steam will turn into ice crystals, which can make muffins soggy. Nobody wants that!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tarts

WIN_20150831_184305Last month we shared a quick and easy recipe for Apple Pecan Tarts, and readers loved them. So did Half Pint! While snacking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Half Pint declared, “I have a great idea! How about if we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but pies instead?”

OK. Here we go. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20150827_093203Ingredients (Makes 32 mini tarts)

1 package of roll-out refrigerated pie crust

1/2 cup of crushed peanuts

1 cup of creamy peanut butter

1 cup of grape jelly

 WIN_20150827_093602Directions

Step 1) Open the package of roll-out refrigerated pie crusts (there are two crusts per package). Instead of rolling them out, squish each crust into a big ball of dough. How fun!

WIN_20150827_093857Step 2) Place a small ball of pie crust dough, about the size of a golf ball, in each well of a mini muffin pan. Push the dough down in the center so that it flattens on the bottom and up the sides of the well. You can use a tart press (shown), a medicine cup, or just your fingers for this.

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Wilton Recipe Right 24 Cup Mini Muffin Pan

Step 3) Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of crushed peanuts inside of each tart crust. Gently spoon peanut butter and jelly into each tart crust, leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top of each tart.

WIN_20150831_181239Step 4) Bake tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Step 5) Using a butter knife and/or a teaspoon (not your fingers!), remove the tarts from the mini muffin pan while they are still warm. Cool on a wire rack. These tarts freeze well for packing in school lunches!

Zucchini Chèvre Appetizers

WIN_20150831_185801Put the bread pans away, and let’s do something a little different with that last zucchini of the season, shall we? These savory, garlic infused zucchini rounds are topped with just enough flaky pastry to make the textures and flavors POP! Using roll-out, refrigerated pie crust keeps things simple enough to manage on the evening of your next cocktail party, or simply as a midnight snack on your next movie night!

WIN_20150831_174117Ingredients (Makes approximately 16 appetizers)

1 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch rings

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon preserved lemon (or substitute 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon)

4 cloves garlic

4 ounces Chèvre cheese

1 roll-out refrigerated pie crust

WIN_20150831_183310Directions

Step 1) Grease a large baking sheet and arrange zucchini slices (it’s OK if they’re touching each other).

Step 2) Combine olive oil, preserved lemon, and garlic in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Use a pastry brush to generously coat the tops of each zucchini slice.

Step 3) Place 1 heaping teaspoon of Chèvre cheese on top of each zucchini slice, slightly off center.

Step 4) Roll out the refrigerated pie crust and cut 16 small (1 – 2 inch diameter) shapes using cookie cutters. Place one shape on each zucchini slice, so that the pastry slightly overlaps the Chèvre.

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Step 5) Brush the tops of the pastry shapes with any remaining garlic/lemon/oil mixture.

Step 6) Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes, watching carefully. The pastry should be golden brown, but don’t let the edges burn!

Serve while warm.

Apple Gingerbread

WIN_20150901_172011What tastes like autumn and makes your kitchen smell amazing? Apple Gingerbread! Imagine warm, fragrant gingerbread combined with baked apples… what’s not to love? This dish is equally fabulous for Sunday brunch or a weeknight dessert.

WIN_20150901_154959Ingredients (Fills a 9 inch pie dish)

1 large apple, diced

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/3 cup all-natural applesauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/3 cup molasses

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk

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Step 1) Grease a 9 inch pie dish. Sprinkle chopped apple evenly on bottom of the pie dish.

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Step 2) Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium size bowl and blend well. Spread batter evenly over chopped apple.

Step 3) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Corn Fritters

WIN_20150831_185450The season for sweet corn comes and goes in the blink of an eye, but Oh how fabulous that season is while it lasts! Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we try to shuck and process 2 dozen ears of sweet corn every day until the local farm stand closes. Today’s creation was a big platter of Corn Fritters, which were divine with maple syrup. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

WIN_20150831_183618Ingredients (Makes 16 fritters, approximately 3 inches in diameter)

2 cups corn kernels (frozen and thawed is fine)

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/4 cup flour

WIN_20150831_184010Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well.

Step 2) Drop by heaping tablespoonsful onto a well greased griddle or frying pan. Fry over low-medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Enjoy while hot!

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Apple Cinnamon Granola

WIN_20150526_153601Making homemade granola is an all-around good idea. For starters, granola is delicious and versatile as both a breakfast and a snack food. Store-bought granola can be quite expensive, and can also contain questionable ingredients. The do-it-yourself approach can save a LOT of money, while giving you complete control over the quality of each ingredient. Enjoy!

WIN_20150526_143639Ingredients (Makes about 6 cups)

1 cup apple jelly

1 tablespoon real butter

3 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

1 cup dried apple pieces

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

WIN_20150526_144914Directions

Step 1) Grease two baking sheets (the kind with shallow sides) and set aside.

Step 2) Combine apple jelly and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil steadily for two minutes, then remove from heat.

Step 3) Combine rolled oats, apple pieces, raisins, nuts, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Drizzle boiled jelly mixture over dry ingredients, stirring with a large spoon to evenly coat the ingredients.

Step 4) Spread granola mixture onto greased baking sheets and bake in a preheated 275 degree oven for 30 minutes. Stir once after 15 minutes.

Step 5) Allow granola to cool completely, and store in an airtight container.

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Back by Popular Demand! How to Make Your Own Granola Bars

How to Save a Million Dollars a Year

How to Make Your Own Granola Bars!

Granola Bars

OK, making my own granola bars did not save me a million dollars last year.  It may have only been half a million dollars.  Or maybe just enough for an occasional, guilt free (mostly) massage at a fabulous spa.  But more to the point, store bought granola bars are expensive.  They don’t seem that way, as you’re pushing your cart down the cereal isle… $3 or so seems harmless enough, right?  The problem is, many of those $3 boxes only contain 5 bars.  Even that might seem reasonable if everyone was happy with one bar.  I, however, have been blessed with boys.  Growing boys.  Have you seen growing boys raid a kitchen after school?  It’s an awe inspiring, slightly terrifying sight to behold.

My darling boys could obliterate a whole shelf of granola bars in only the time it would take them to tear through all of that wasteful packaging.  If I continued buying granola bars from the supermarket, I was going to need to supplement my income by renting out my boys for farm labor.  They didn’t seem too keen on the idea, so Option B required me to create an easy, low cost granola bar that would pass muster with the kids.  Three different versions became fast favorites.  I hope you enjoy them!  Don’t forget to post your comments below!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part I:  Apple Cinnamon
I make a lot of jellies and jams (recipes coming soon!).  Occasionally, a batch of jelly or jam won’t turn out quite right – it’s either overcooked so that it’s too thick to spread, or undercooked so that it resembles syrup.  Because I’m too frugal to just throw them away, my “jars of mistakes” have been taking up shelf space, waiting to be put to good use.  Well, it’s Good Use Time!  You can use any apple jelly for this recipe, whether a store-bought version or a homemade version, even if it’s underwhelming on its own.
Combine dry goods and set aside:Dry Ingredients
3 cups of whole oats
1 cup of high fiber cereal
3/4 cup of diced, dried apples
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamonButter and Jelly
Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:
¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)
1 cup apple jelly

Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.  picture055

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage.

Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part II: Wild Blueberry

Two summers ago, my family spent a week on the Maine Coast (beautiful… highly recommend!).  Kitchen goofball that I am, I managed to squeeze my canning pot, canning utensils, and a case of half pint canning jars into the back of the family minivan.  I was on a quest to purvey enough of the fabled wild Maine blueberries to make 12 jars of jam, and I succeeded… sort of.

I overcooked the jam.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  There may have been a few words uttered that would, ah, make a Sunday School teacher blush.  But… Crowded Earth Kitchen wastes NOTHING!  Despite having no earthly idea how I would salvage those blueberries, I packed my 12 jars of crystallized blueberry “rock” into the van and brought them home.

You may use any blueberry jam for this recipe (I salvaged mine by soaking the jars in scalding hot water).  You might even get wild and crazy and try using another variety of jam.  If you create your own version, please let me know how it turns out!

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 1/2 cups of whole oats

1 cup of high fiber cereal

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

1 cup blueberry jam

Blueberry Bars Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Version III: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip 

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 cups of whole oats

¾ cup of high fiber cereal (any variety will suffice)

1 cup of chopped pretzels (if you like salt) or crispie rice cereal (if you don’t)

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

½ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup honey (or maple syrup as a vegan substitute)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars  Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.

Then, press mini chocolate chips into the top of the granola bars (I used two tablespoons; use more if you don’t mind the sugar, or don’t use them at all). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!