French Cherry Clafoutis

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It’s now been six years since our magical European Food Tour concluded. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and travel bans of 2020, my soul aches to return to those enchanting, cobblestone meandering days. We’ll get there. For now, we can revisit favorite food memories, such as this delightful (and simple!) cherry dessert.

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The cherry clafoutis shown above was enjoyed in a little café in Lichtenberg.  It was truly delicious, and I’ve mimicked the taste and textures pretty closely, with two exceptions.  First, I used pitted cherries.  I understand that whole cherries are traditional, but really, spitting cherry pits onto a china plate takes something away from the whole dining experience, don’t you agree?  Second, I added walnuts to the crust.  Why? Because cherry pits – supposedly – add a nutty flavor to the dish.  I subtracted the pits, added some walnuts, and Voila! – flavor without, well, pits.

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Ingredients (Serves 8 – 10)

For the crust:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons cherry brandy

1 egg

For the filling:

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and set in a strainer to drain

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened (or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cherry brandy

Directions

Step 1) Combine whole wheat flour, walnuts, and sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles little peas.  Add egg and cherry brandy.  Mix – use your hands! – until well combined.

Step 2) Press dough into a tart pan (a pie dish would work fine, too).  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the dough and sprinkle with dried beans.  This will keep air bubbles from forming and “puffing up” your dough.

Step 3) Bake dough (foil, beans, and all) in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove beans and foil, and let cool for 10 minutes.

WIN_20140929_181944Step 4) While crust cools, use an electric mixer to combine softened Neufchâtel cheese, eggs, sugar, and brandy.

Step 5) Arrange thawed, drained cherries on crust.  Cover with cheese filling.

Step 6) Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve warm or cold.  Personally, I prefer this dish cold.  Try to share with 7 – 9 other people, but if you eat the whole darn thing by yourself, I won’t judge.  😉

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Pumpkin Pudding

Pudding1Pumpkin is one of the healthiest veggies around! It’s low in calories but chock full of fiber and vitamins. This quick and easy recipe allows you to serve up veggies as a delicious (and healthy) dessert! Your secret is safe with me. Continue reading

Lazy Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Z1Here’s the quick story behind this recipe: Half-Pint wanted zucchini bread (actually, the request was “Can you turn this zucchini into something chocolate?”), but it’s nice outside. Autumn is a’comin’, and I want to be outside savoring the end of summer! This recipe Continue reading

Alice in Wonderland Snacks

Alice 1“One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.”

“One side of what? The other side of what?” said Alice.

“Of the mushroom,” said the Caterpillar and then it crawled out of sight.

Continue reading

Mom’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

pieHappy 4th of July weekend, everyone! If you’re looking for something special to bring to a backyard celebration, look no further. Mom’s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is awesome (like my Mom… she’s awesome, too!). Let’s get started…

Ingredients (Makes 1 pie)

For the filling:

2 1/2 cups Continue reading

Kids in the Kitchen: Strawberry Creamsicles

straw2Kids love popsicles! They can run around the back yard with them, and rinse off sticky hands and faces by running through the sprinkler. Homemade popsicles are essential… they cost less than store-bought, and using wholesome ingredients means kids enjoy more flavor, take in a few vitamins, and won’t even miss all of the corn syrup and artificial colors in the freezer section of the supermarket.

Strawberry Creamsicles are a favorite here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, but feel free to substitute any fresh, ripe fruit!

Ingredients (Makes 6 popsicles) Continue reading

Sneaky Leprechaun Milkshake

This vintage post was popular the first time around, and Crowded Earth Kitchen has several hundred new readers (Welcome!) since last St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m sharing this again.  Enjoy!

picture833“Mom?  Can we just stop at the drive-thru and get a (green) shake?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“Still No.”

“Pleeaassee?  I’ll do laundry.”

I’ll admit, this is where the devil on my shoulder told me that I would be a fool not to cave in just this once, and so what if the child glows in the dark for the next two weeks.  The fact is, the children in my house generate approximately 817 loads of laundry every week, and the offer of complaint-free laundry labor was enticing (that they will end up helping anyway, albeit under duress, is beside the point).  Then I had an idea…

“Still no.  But if you help with laundry cheerfully, I’ll make you a (green) shake.”

“Deal.”

Here’s what I came up with.  The kids LOVED it!  Peppermint extract is strong… a little bit can make, well, just about anything taste like peppermint.  😉  Each serving (approximately 10 ounces) contains 113 calories, 4 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.  Each serving also packs an impressive 60% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin A, and 20% of the RDA for calcium.  Compare that to the drive-thru green shake… I dare you.

picture822Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

1 cup frozen chopped spinach (Ha!  Ha ha ha!)

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 cup “real” vanilla ice cream, without any weird ingredients (I found a supermarket brand that was made from milk, cream, sugar, egg yolk, natural vanilla extract, and nothing else)

1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (Very strong!  You may even want to try a bit less than 1 teaspoon.)

Dark chocolate shavings (Optional)  

picture823Directions

Step 1) Add spinach and about half of the skim milk to a blender.  Pulse for a few seconds to thoroughly chop spinach into tiny “peppermint” size pieces.

Step 2) Add remaining milk to blender and blend for a minute or a longer until the mixture is very creamy (almost butter-like) and increases in volume.  The photo, left, shows only spinach and milk – it really does get creamy!

Step 3) Add peppermint extract and ice cream to blender.  For best results, add ice cream in several tiny scoops rather than one large scoop.  Blend until all ingredients are combined.

Step 4) Mixture will be tasty now, but thin.  For best results, pour shake mixture into a shallow container and place in the back of your freezer for one hour.  After an hour, scoop shake mixture into serving glasses (I used half pint jelly jars).  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Step 5) Try not to laugh as your loved ones unwittingly eat their spinach.  🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Irish Cream Icebox Cake

cake-3I don’t recall exactly how the topic came up, but recently my mother and I got to talking about something called “Icebox Cake.” I was completely unfamiliar, but she knew exactly what this was. To me, it sounded like an interesting concept… layers of chocolate chip cookies and creamy filling, refrigerated overnight until the whole thing took on a cake-like texture. I filed the idea away for a future rainy day.

Mom did better than that, and actually created an icebox cake for us to try. It was fantastic! This cool, creamy indulgence has definitely earned a spot in the dessert rotation here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. I hope you enjoy Irish Cream Icebox Cake as much as we did!

cake-2Ingredients (Serves 12 – 16)

24 ounces of “Chips Ahoy” cookies (packages vary in size; check the weight)

3/4 cup (about 12 ounces) Marscarpone cheese

1 3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup Irish cream liqueur

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

Garnishes such as powdered sugar, whipped cream, and/or miniature chocolates

cake-1Directions

Step 1) Combine Marscarpone cheese, heavy cream, Irish cream liqueur, sugar, cocoa powder, and almond extract. Blend with an electric mixer for one minute, then beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Step 2) Cover the bottom of a large Springform pan (or other round pan, approximately 12″ in diameter) with Chips Ahoy cookies. Do not overlap the cookies. Instead, break a few cookies to fill in the spaces.

Step 3) Top the cookies with a thin layer of cream (about 1/4 of your total filling mixture).

Step 4) Repeat layers of cookies and cream filling until the cream filling is used up. The top layer should be cream.

Step 5) Cover your Irish Cream Icebox Cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Don’t rush this – the cake really does need to rest in the fridge for about 12 hours!

Step 6) If using a Springform pan, run a butter knife around the edge before removing the side of the pan. Immediately before slicing and serving, garnish as desired.

YUM!

 

Holiday Rice Pudding

win_20161209_181507If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know that our favorite recipes are those that are stone simple to prepare but taste and look a little bit fancy. We’re all about kitchen trickery.  😉 Continue reading

Yummy Frozen Pumpkin Torte

win_20160928_190824Question: What’s better than a delicious frozen pumpkin torte?

Answer: A delicious frozen pumpkin torte which is super easy to prepare!

This torte fits the bill. Yummy Frozen Pumpkin Torte offers the perfect flavor profile for autumn, has a beautiful presentation, and is simple enough for a beginner to tackle with confidence. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 12 – 16)

3 cups finely crushed gingersnaps

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened

Whole gingersnaps (for garnish)

Toffee candy bar (for garnish)

Directions

Step 1) Combine gingersnap crumbs and butter. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of a 10 inch Springform pan. Place the pan with the crust in the freezer, to help the crust set.

Note: If you don’t have a Springform pan, you can use a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. You may need an additional (4th) cup of gingersnap crumbs and an extra 2 tablespoons of melted butter to coat the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

Step 2) In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Gently fold in softened ice cream. Remove the pan with the crust from the freezer, and spread the ice cream mixture over the crust. Cover with foil and return the torte to the freezer for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Step 3) Just before serving, garnish the top of your Yummy Frozen Pumpkin Torte with gingersnaps and toffee candy bar pieces. Remove side of Springform pan for presentation.

To store leftover torte in freezer, simply reattach the side of the Springform pan and cover with foil.

 

Autumn Plum Cake

easy-plum-cakeEvery autumn, the New York Times publishes the same plum torte recipe. It has something of a cult following. My friend Denise, a scratch cook who is rather particular about the recipes she endorses, raves about this torte. So, I gave it a try.

It’s good. Really good! The recipe is included here. I had larger plums on hand, so I used slices rather than halves. Whether this recipe is a “torte” or a “cake” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m going with “cake,” as for me the word “torte” conjures up images of complicated, many-layered German desserts. This recipe is blessedly simple. It is quite similar to Rustic Apple Cake, with different fruit. Enjoy this cake (torte?) with a cup of coffee as you watch the leaves fall.

French Chocolate Éclairs

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If you know of a gooey, chocolaty baked confection more fabulous than a French Chocolate Éclair, do let me know because I can’t think of one! They’re so decadent, they must be difficult to make, right? Au contraire! If you can stir a few ingredients together and squeeze a plastic bag (more on that later), you can make this heavenly dessert.

Fun variation: Instead of the French vanilla cream filling used below, consider filling these decadent treats with English Lemon Curd. Either option is delicious! Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 30 mini Éclairs)

For the éclair shells:

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour Continue reading