Cherry Tomato Cheddar Muffins

M1This week, the cherry tomatoes in my garden are sweet and delicious. While they make a flavorful addition to a variety of sauces, cherry tomatoes are so darn cute that it’s fun to cook with them in ways that show off their shape! This recipe combines garden fresh cherry tomatoes with cheddar cheese in a delightful cornbread muffin recipe guaranteed to make you smile. Let’s get started!  Continue reading

Signature Dish: Savory Stuffed Pumpkin

p3Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we don’t toss around the Signature Dish moniker lightly. If we label a recipe as a Signature Dish, you can rest assured that the recipe is a guaranteed, crowd pleasing success. Savory Stuffed Pumpkin fits the bill! Continue reading

Pilar’s Spinach Noodle Casserole


I first shared the post you see below in January of 2016, and am sharing it again in her memory. See you on the other side, my friend. 

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


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.


Sunday Lasagna

Lasagna1Fancy enough for Sunday dinner, but easy enough to let you enjoy your Sunday afternoon, this recipe offers a slight twist on a traditional lasagna. The filling is pleasantly creamy, the flavor packs a punch… and yet there are no “weird” ingredients to find. Happy cooking, happy dining!

Ingredients (Makes a 9″ x 13″ pan) 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

World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread


Half Loaf of Cinnamon Bread – Look at that yummy center!

I really shouldn’t share this, because I’m giving one of my big secrets away. You see, I like to bake loaves of this cinnamon bread for other people, because who doesn’t love cinnamon bread?! People seem to be under the impression that baking this bread is a real labor of love. Well, here’s the big secret… this recipe is stone simple and takes hardly any time at all to prepare.  😉

Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves of World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread)

2 loaves bread dough*

*Either thaw two loaves of Rhodes frozen white bread dough, available in the freezer section of any supermarket, or make a batch of Simple Bread dough and stop at the end of step 5!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cornmeal

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 generous tablespoon cinnamon


Step 1) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Step 2) Grease a counter top with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 10″ wide and 16″ long.

Step 3) Beginning right along one of the 10″ edges, spread half of the butter/sugar mixture over the dough rectangle. Leave about an inch along each of the long sides bare. Leave about 2 inches along the far, 10″ edge bare.

Step 4) Gently roll up the dough, beginning with the 10″ edge covered in butter/sugar, and rolling toward the 10″ bare edge. The 10″ bare edge should be on the bottom of your rolled up loaf, with the seam on the bottom. Gently pull the side ends down and tuck underneath the loaf.

Step 5) Repeat Steps 2 – 4 with the second half of the dough and the second half of the butter/sugar mixture.

Step 6) Grease a very large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Then, lightly sprinkle the entire baking sheet with cornmeal.

Step 7) Carefully set your two loaves on the baking sheet, with the seams on the bottom. Leave at least 3 inches of space around all sides of each loaf. If your baking sheet is not large enough to allow this, use two baking sheets!

Step 8) Allow your loaves to rest while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees (do not begin preheating until Step 7 is complete). Then, after your oven is preheated, place your loaves on the center rack. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves are light golden brown. Remove loaves from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Optional: After loaves are cool, drizzle with cream cheese frosting for an added treat!

Weeknight Spaghetti Bake

win_20161005_192041Think lasagna, but simpler to prepare. If you can boil spaghetti noodles, you can make Weeknight Spaghetti Bake successfully! Squares of this one dish meal can be enjoyed on their own or served with a crisp green salad. This dish freezes well, too – perfect for busy weekday lunches!

Ingredients (Makes 1 large pan, serves 8 – 12)

1 pound box of spaghetti noodles

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup olives, sliced mushrooms, and/or diced peppers (your preference)

1 pound lean ground beef

4 cups spaghetti sauce (homemade or store-bought)

2 cups shredded mozzarella and/or mild cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper


Step 1) Brown ground beef. Drain, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2) Cook spaghetti noodles to al dente, according to package directions. Drain well. Toss spaghetti noodles with egg and parmesan cheese. Transfer spaghetti noodle mixture to a greased, 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Spread noodles evenly over bottom of pan.

win_20161005_165219Step 3) Use a teaspoon to spread ricotta cheese over the spaghetti noodles. Top with olives, sliced mushrooms, and or diced peppers, and sprinkle with crushed, dried oregano.

Step 4) Next, top the ricotta and vegetables with ground beef. Pour sauce over the ground beef, making sure to coat the entire pan evenly with sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

win_20161005_165712Step 5) After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven. Remove foil and sprinkle shredded cheese over the entire pan. Return pan (uncovered) to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Step 6) Allow Weeknight Spaghetti Bake to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. Enjoy!


Enchilada Lasagna

WIN_20160115_201401Is it an enchilada, or is it a lasagna? A bit of both, I suppose. Here’s the dilemma… traditional corn tortillas are delicious, and are nutritionally superior to American-style flour tortillas. The problem is, traditional corn tortillas aren’t quite as pliable, and have a tendency to break into a crumbly mess when you try to roll them up! One easy solution is to simply leave them flat.

This recipe takes advantage of the flavor combinations found in Mexican enchiladas, but with an ease of assembly mimicking an Italian lasagna. I baked this dish in four, individual serving baking dishes to freeze for workday lunches. If you’d prefer to make a single, 9×13 inch rectangular pan, just double the recipe!

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160115_190708Ingredients (Serves 4)

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 cup whole kernel corn

1/2 cup diced bell peppers

1/4 cup diced onion

1 cup enchilada sauce, divided

1 cup refried beans

1 cup diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

8 corn tortillas (6 inch diameter)


Step 1) Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently. Drain well.

Step 2) Add corn, peppers, onion, and half of the enchilada sauce to the ground beef. Stir to combine.

Step 3) In a separate bowl, blend together the refried beans and diced tomatoes.

Step 4) Layer 1 corn tortilla in the bottom of each greased, oven-safe lunch container (trim tortilla if needed). Spread a thin layer of refried bean mixture over the tortilla, followed by a layer of the ground beef mixture, and a sprinkle of cheese. REPEAT the layers a second time.

Step 5) Top each Enchilada Lasagna with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 degree oven until cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown. Enjoy warm. If freezing to enjoy in the future, allow to cool completely before wrapping airtight and freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and enjoy within 1 month for best flavor.

Au Gratin Potatoes

WIN_20160115_204815In chilly weather, a well made bowl of warm and cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes is just the thing to warm up your insides! This recipe gives the potatoes a head start in the microwave, allowing your to indulge your craving for cheesy potatoes even faster. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients (Makes 2 side dish servings)

2 large potatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup milk

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


Step 1) Microwave potatoes in water for 5 minutes or until just barely parcooked. If potatoes are very cold, they will require an additional minute or two in the microwave.

Step 2) Combine butter, shredded cheddar cheese, and milk in a saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until cheese is melted and a smooth sauce forms.

Step 3) Arrange half of the potatoes in a small, greased casserole dish. Top with half of the cheese sauce. Layer on the remaining potato slices, and top with the remaining cheese sauce.

Step 4) Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and cover the casserole dish with foil. Bake Au Gratin Potatoes in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 5) Remove casserole dish from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and finish baking, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Enjoy your Au Gratin Potatoes!

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


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.

Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Meatballs


Forget Michelin Stars… food critics will try anything. If you can please a table full of half-pint diners, now, that’s something! My half-pints have two “verymost favorite” meals… homemade macaroni and cheese ranks first, followed closely by spaghetti and meatballs.

Why not combine the best of both, for Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Meatballs? Homemade macaroni and cheese is easy to make… put the blue box down… step away from the blue box with the powdered cheese packet, please. Likewise, meatballs are easy to prepare. In less than 30 minutes, you can prepare this warm and delicious dinner for your half-pints, full pints, and anyone else at your table.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 pound box of dry pasta (macaroni or medium shells)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups shredded, mild cheddar cheese

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

12 cooked meatballs


Step 1) Grease a 2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

Step 2) Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add dry pasta and cook according to package directions.

Step 3) While pasta boils, melt butter in a WIN_20150304_171404large saute pan. Add cheese, milk, and paprika.

Step 4) Melt cheese mixture over low heat, stirring constantly.

Step 5) When pasta is cooked to al dente (slightly chewy – don’t overcook!), drain well. Add cooked pasta to the casserole dish.

WIN_20150304_172012Step 6) Pour melted cheese mixture over pasta. Add half of the cooked meatballs and stir lightly. Cover and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Step 7) Remove Mac ‘n Cheese from oven, top with remaining meatballs, and serve immediately.


Mushroom Risotto

picture150 (2)

This recipe ranks very high on my list of all-time favorite comfort foods.  Mushroom Risotto is a savory, slow recipe with lots of slicing and stirring, but is otherwise easy to prepare.  The fact that each serving is chock full of vitamins and minerals is an added bonus.  My suggestion?  Uncork a bottle of wine and meander through this recipe with a friend or significant other.  Cooking comfort food together is a great way to stay connected!


2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves finely chopped garlic

picture1401 1/2 cups sliced crimini, baby bella, or white button mushrooms (your choice)

1 cup sliced shiitaki mushrooms

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

4 cups water


1 cup Arborio “risotto” rice (do not substitute another variety of rice)

1 cup sliced fresh green beans (or, substitute asparagus)

1 cup chopped fresh tomato

1 cup shredded muenster cheese

1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese


Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.  Remove from heat, add dried porcini mushrooms, cover saucepan, and let sit for 5 minutes.  Then, use a slotted spoon to remove porcini mushrooms from the pot.  Slice the porcini mushrooms and set aside.  Return the pot of mushroom-infused water to a low simmer… we will use it as broth in a few minutes!

picture142Add olive oil, onions, and garlic to a large sauté pan.  Over low heat, sauté five minutes, until onions are partially translucent.  Add all of the mushrooms, and sauté five more minutes.

picture146Add Arborio rice.  Stir gently for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture feels quite dry.  This “toasts” the rice and helps to give risotto its distinct texture.

Add 1 cup of mushroom broth to the pan and stir until it is absorbed (maybe 2 minutes or so).  Add another 1 cup of mushroom broth and the beans to the pan.  Stir until the liquid is absorbed a second time.  It will take a bit longer, maybe 5 minutes.

picture147 Do you see the trend?  For the third time, add another 1 cup of mushroom broth to the pan.  Also add the tomatoes.  Continue stirring until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Each time takes a bit longer.  This addition may require 5 to 7 minutes to absorb.  Don’t forget to continue stirring, so the rice doesn’t stick!

picture149When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, taste a few grains of rice.  If they are crunchy, you may need to add a bit more water (1/2 cup, this time).  Be careful not to add too much liquid or the rice will get mushy!  Think “al dente,” like pasta.  When your rice feels “al dente,” it’s done.

Remove from heat and gently stir in the cheese.  You can easily make this a vegan dish by eliminating the cheese, but I’ll be honest, without the melty muenster and parmesan, I don’t enjoy this dish quite as much.

Feel free to season with any combination of salt, pepper, or lemon zest.  Enjoy!