R2If you search online for “Ratatouille,” you’ll find some pretty fancypants recipes. They look lovely. The thing is, traditional Ratatouille really isn’t fancy. For hundreds of years, Ratatouille was understood to be a vegetable-based French country stew, made from whatever the cook’s garden happened to offer up for harvest that day. In that spirit, today’s Ratatouille recipe is both flexible and delicious! Save the silver and china for another dinner.¬† ūüėČ Continue reading

Cookbook Giveaway!

cookbook-cover-imageThe Global Recipe Project Cookbook

Contest Ends May 30th

Two ways to enter:
1) Reblog this post!
2) Tweet a link to this post, and include @CrowdedEarthKit
Available on Amazon, 100% of the profits from The Global Recipe Project Cookbook will benefit not-for-profit organizations which feed people as a central part of their mission. Cooks and food bloggers from around the world have contributed to this amazing book. Over 170 recipes from 65 countries are included. Pick up a copy today, and support a worthy cause!
8″ x 10″ (20.32 x 25.4 cm) 
Black & White on Cream paper
136 pages
CEK Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-0998191607
ISBN-10: 0998191604
BISAC: Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / General

Give the Gift that Gives Back!

cookbook-cover-imageAvailable on Amazon, 100% of the profits from The Global Recipe Project Cookbook will benefit not-for-profit organizations which feed people as a central part of their mission. Cooks and food bloggers from around the world have generously contributed to this amazing book. Over 170 recipes from 65 countries are included!

Try your hand at Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, while reading how and when this meal is traditionally served. Sample a variety of chutneys while exploring the rich spice blends of India. Dine on simple and delicious French dishes such as Croquette Monsieur and Soupe L’Ongion.

Bakers will appreciate clear and simple instructions for classics such as Italian Cannoli and Austrian Apfelstrudel. Feeling adventurous? Amigdalato, a Greek almond pastry, and Kransekake, a Norwegian wedding cake, offer dramatic dessert options for holiday entertaining.

Pick up a copy today, and support a worthy cause!
ISBN-13: 978-0998191607
ISBN-10: 0998191604
BISAC: Cooking / Regional & Ethnic / General

French Chocolate √Čclairs


If you know of a gooey, chocolaty baked confection more fabulous than a¬†French Chocolate √Čclair, 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 √Čclairs)

For the éclair shells:

1/2 cup real butter

1 cup water

1 cup flour Continue reading

Simple Beef Bourguignon

WIN_20160815_185525“Simple” and “Beef Bourguignon” are not words we see paired too often, but perhaps we should! French food does not need to be mysterious, and this spin on classic French beef stew is really a snap to prepare. Also, it’s versatile. Feel free to add or subtract vegetables as your taste buds desire. Suggestions are given in the recipe below. Bon App√©tit!

WIN_20160815_150511Ingredients (Serves 6)

2 pounds good quality beef stew meat

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup real butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (750 ml) bottle burgundy or cabernet sauvignon wine

2 cups French Braised Onions (optional)

2 cups roasted root vegetables (optional)

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (optional)


Step 1) In a large plastic bag, toss together beef stew meat, flour, salt, and pepper. Shake the bag until the meat is evenly coated with the flour mixture.

Step 2) Combine half of the butter and half of the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add half of the meat from step 1 to the skillet, and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally with a metal spatula.

Step 3) Transfer browned beef to a slow cooker (such as a Crock Pot). Repeat steps 2 and 3 with the other half of the butter, oil, and beef.

Step 4) Add 1/4 cup of red wine to the skillet and continue cooking over medium heat while scraping vigorously with a metal spatula to deglaze the pan. Pour the contents of the pan into the slow cooker over the beef.

Step 5) After all of the beef has been browned and transferred to the slow cooker, pour the¬†remainder of the¬†bottle of red wine over the beef. Cook the beef on “low” for 8 – 10 hours (preferable) or on “high” for 4 – 5 hours, until most of the wine has been absorbed and the beef is very tender.

Step 6) Approximately 30 minutes before serving, gently stir any combination of French Braised Onions, roasted vegetables, and Kalamata olives into the slow cooker with the beef, to heat through. Serve with potatoes, sautéed yellow squash, and/or French bread.



French Braised Onions


I’ll be honest, friends. While I adore most vegetables, onions have never ranked really high on the list. I don’t “dislike” them, they just aren’t a favorite. Or rather, they weren’t a favorite until I made these amazing French Braised Onions. It all started a few days ago, when I pulled these lovely little onions from my backyard garden. Aren’t they cute?


Alas, they are also a bit slow to clean and peel! It seemed a waste to just chop them up and toss them in a recipe as if they were big, store bought onions. I wanted to showcase these little cuties. The recipe below is incredibly simple, you just need to be patient with the slow cooking required. The end result is worth the wait… onions infused with broth and wine, sweet and savory, with a silky texture. French Braised Onions are delightful as an accompaniment to meaty dishes such as beef bourguignon, or can be served as an appetizer on thin slices of baguette.


Onions before braising

Ingredients (Makes about 3 cups)

30 – 40 small white onions (1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter)

2 tablespoons real butter

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

1/2 cup chicken stock

3/4 cup dry red wine


Step 1) Melt butter in a 9 inch skillet. Sprinkle rosemary evenly over melted butter.

Step 2) Lightly trim the bottoms and tops of the onions, removing only about 1/4 inch from each end. Arrange onions, top sides up, in the buttered skillet.

Step 3) Pour the chicken stock and wine over the onions.

Step 4) Bring the skillet just barely to a boil over medium heat, then immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.


Onions after 90 minutes of total braising time

Step 5) After 15 minutes, cover the skillet and continue cooking over low heat for an hour or longer as needed, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Gently shake the skillet every few minutes, to prevent sticking and evenly distribute the liquid. Don’t rush this! It really should take at least an hour for most of the liquid to absorb. If the liquid is disappearing quickly, reduce the heat.

Step 6) When almost all of the liquid has been (slowly!) absorbed, your French Braised Onions are ready to enjoy!

French Macarons

French Macarons


French Macarons might be the best dessert to ever emerge from Crowded Earth Kitchen. How’s that for an endorsement to try this recipe?

A Google search for “French Macarons” will turn up… wait for it… 630,000 hits. Does the world really need 630,001? Yes. Here’s why! You see, here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we sorted through a good long many of those 630,000 links, picking up tips and ideas along the way. The end result is Continue reading

Mardi Gras King Cake

King Cake wholeThis cake is so very, very delicious.

It’s “Why can’t every day be Fat Tuesday?” delicious! It’s “Please Mom, why can’t I have a third piece?” delicious! It’s “To heck with that resolution, life is short and I want CAKE!” delicious!

 Mardi Gras Beads & Feather Masks Party Pack With 6 Mardi Gras Tattoos

King Cake is a staple of Mardi Gras festivities, Mardi Gras being the joyful and exuberant two week period ending with Fat Tuesday. Throughout much of Europe and the Southern United States, Mardi Gras is when Christians indulge in butter, eggs, sugar, and other luxuries, in preparation for the coming austerity of Lent. As you can see from the recipe below, King Cake is chock full of rich and delicious ingredients. Lent is approaching… let’s enjoy this King Cake now!

WIN_20160128_133351Ingredients (Makes 1 large King Cake, serves 16)

For the cake:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

WIN_20160128_1542502 envelopes of yeast

4 eggs, lightly beaten

6 – 7 cups flour

For the filling:

3/4 package (6 ounces) cream cheese

WIN_20160128_1544181 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup raspberry jam

For the frosting:

1/4 package (2 ounces) cream cheese

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup milk

food coloring (if desired; I used purple)

decorations (I used gold dragees/nonpareils and green sugar)

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You


Step 1) Heat 1 cup milk, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup butter in a large pot (the pot will function as a mixing bowl, so use a big pot). Once butter is melted, remove saucepan from heat. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

Step 2) After the milk mixture has cooled slightly, stir in yeast and beaten eggs. Slowly stir in 6 cups of flour. Dump the dough onto a floured counter top.

Step 3) Knead dough with your hands until the dough is nice and smooth, about 6 – 8 minutes. Add additional 1 cup or so of flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Step 4) Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp cloth (a clean kitchen towel works well) and set dough in a warm (not hot) place to rise for 1 hour.

Step 5) After 1 hour, divide dough in half. On a lightly floured counter top, roll into two approximate rectangles, each approximately 2 feet long and 6 inches wide.

Step 6) Spread raspberry jam down the center of one rectangle. Fold the sides over the jam to make a long, skinny rectangle of dough with the jam trapped in the center.

Step 7) Blend together 6 ounces of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Spread this mixture down the center of the second rectangle, and fold the same way as the first rectangle (see photo, above).

WIN_20160128_163110Step 8) Place the long, skinny rectangles right next to each other and simply twist them together. You can leave them in a long line to make a straight King Cake, or shape the twisted dough into a wreath as shown.

Step 9) Carefully transfer the unbaked King Cake to a well greased baking sheet. Use a big baking sheet, as the King Cake will expand in the oven! If possible, have someone help you move the dough.

Step 10) Bake your King Cake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and sounds a bit hollow when tapped with your fingertip. If you are baking a wreath-shaped cake, place a few well greased canning jars in the center to help retain the shape.

WIN_20160128_172259Step 11) Remove King Cake from oven and immediately remove jars from center of wreath. Use the largest spatula you can find to help transfer your King Cake to a wire rack for cooling.

Step 12) While your King Cake cools, blend together 2 ounces of cream cheese, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and milk to make frosting. Add the milk only 1 tablespoon at a time – you don’t want runny frosting! Add food coloring if desired, keeping in mind that traditional King Cake colors are purple, green, and gold.

Step 13) When your King Cake is completely cool, drizzle ribbons of frosting all over the top. Sprinkle with colored sugar or other decorations. Enjoy!
King Cake slice






Coconut Tuile Cookies


Coconut Tuile Cookies with a traditional, curved shape

Don’t forget to enter the 12 Days of Cookies FREE GIVEAWAY DRAWING!

“What are you making?”

“A new recipe for ‘tuile’ – crispy little French cookies.”

“Well, if they’re French, I’m guessing they’re delicious and difficult to make!”

This little exchange made me laugh. Coconut Tuile Cookies are delicious, indeed! I suppose they can be¬†a bit¬†challenging¬†to make, but unless you’re trying to win an award for technique, I wouldn’t let that discourage you. It takes a bit of practice to create the curved shape of traditional tuile. However,¬†if you don’t mind being nontraditional, just leave them flat like most other cookies (see photo at bottom of post). Problem solved!


1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg white

2 drops coconut extract

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Step 1) Place shredded coconut in a blender or food processor and chop for 2-3 seconds. You aren’t trying to create flour, you’re just breaking the coconut shreds into smaller pieces. Transfer coconut to a small mixing bowl.

Step 2) Add all remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix well.

Step 3) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread batter in small circles (approximately 3 inches across) as thinly as you can. I recommend baking only about 6 cookies at a time, if you want traditional curved cookies (see Step 5 below). If you don’t mind flat cookies, as shown at the bottom of this post, then you can bake as many cookies at once as you wish!

Step 4) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 8-9 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Step 5) For curved cookies, place a piece of parchment paper over a rolling pin. When your tuile cookies come out of the oven, immediately transfer them to the parchment paper on the rolling pin. Allow cookies to cool for several minutes on the rolling pin before gently transferring to a cooling rack.

Like many baked French delicacies, these tuile cookies are best enjoyed within a day or two of baking.


Coconut Tuile Cookies without the traditional, curved shape (these are easier to make)

Plum Tart

WIN_20150915_201813Plum season makes me nostalgic for France. During my travels to Lichtenberg, plum trees were everywhere, heavy with fruit. Not surprisingly, local cafes and bistros featured plums prominently on their menus. This tart reminds me of that visit and makes me smile.

Ingredients (Serves 8 ‚Äď 10)

For the crust:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup ground pecans

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons brandy

1 egg

For the filling:

9 small plums, halved and pits removed

8 ounces Neufch√Ętel cheese, softened¬†(or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon brandy

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest


WIN_20150915_181058Step 1) Combine flour, pecans, and sugar.¬† Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles little peas.¬† Add egg and brandy.¬† Mix ‚Äď use your hands! ‚Äď 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 ‚Äúpuffing up‚ÄĚ 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.

Step 4) While crust cools, use an electric mixer to combine softened Neufch√Ętel¬†cheese, eggs, sugar, brandy, and lemon zest.

Step 5) Spread cheese filling over crust. Gently press plum halves, cut side down, into cheese filling.

Step 6) Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm or cold. I prefer this dish cold.


Baked Tilapia with Chevre Polenta and Sauteed Zucchini


This meal brings me right back to an unassuming little bistro in Lichtenberg, France, where I enjoyed one of the greatest dining experiences of my life so far.  My companions and I were walking through the village, we were hungry, we looked through a wide picture window and saw people having lunch, so we stopped. Ending up at this particular bistro was really as incidental as that. What followed was a spectacular dining experience! Between my companions and I, we sampled many dishes. My favorite was a mild whitefish paired with perfectly prepared zucchini and a creamy polenta. Here is my attempt at recreating this experience. I hope you enjoy!

WIN_20150330_184357Chevre Polenta (Serves 6)

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1 cup water, 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon crushed herbes de provence. Add mixture to boiling water and stir for two or three minutes, until mixture thickens. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, remove cover and stir in 2 ounces of chevre cheese. Keep covered until ready to serve. Chevre Polenta will remain hot for 20 minutes or so. If you need to reheat this, dish onto plates and microwave (it will burn if you try to reheat on the stove).

WIN_20150330_180646Baked Tilapia (Serves 6)

Grease a large baking pan with shallow sides. Line the baking pan with six thick slices of citrus fruit (lemons, limes, or oranges). Top each citrus slice with a 4 ounce tilapia filet (these are very economical when purchased frozen – just allow to thaw before baking). Sprinkle a bit of herbes de provence over each filet, and sprinkle with a little bit (a few drops per filet) of fresh lemon juice. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until fish is white and flakes easily.

WIN_20150330_184023Sauteed Zucchini (Serves 6) – Make this when the polenta is done and the tilapia is almost done!

Saute 2 thinly sliced shallots in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of thinly sliced (1/4 inch or slightly thinner) zucchini and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently but gently. After 2 minutes, add 1 or 2 finely chopped shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms are for flavor, not substance – you don’t need a lot. After 2 or 3 more minutes, when the zucchini is softened and fragrant, remove from heat. Sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and a little bit of herbes de provence. Prepare your plates and enjoy!


Lichtenberg Castle, France

Easy Cherry Clafoutis


It’s time to say Au revoir to France.¬† While this is a painful announcement, as I’m pretty sure I could write about French food for weeks and months and years, it’s time to move on.¬† Crowded Earth Kitchen has awesome foods and experiences from both Belgium and Switzerland to share before our European Food Tour ends at the end of October.¬† Rest assured that we’ll feature French recipes occasionally throughout the coming months!¬† For now, we’re leaving you with a particularly fabulous French recipe… Easy Cherry Clafoutis.


I could live here!

The cherry clafoutis shown above was enjoyed in a little caf√© 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.


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

WIN_20140929_175243For the filling:

12 ounces frozen dark sweet cherries, thawed and drained

8 ounces Neufch√Ętel cheese, softened¬†(or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cherry brandy


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 Рuse your hands! Рuntil 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 Neufch√Ętel 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.¬† ūüėČ


Mus√©e Les Secrets du Chocolat (Museum of Chocolate Secrets)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMus√©e Les Secrets du Chocolat (The Museum of Chocolate Secrets) is located in Geispolsheim, France, just a few minutes outside of Strasbourg.¬† If France is shaped vaguely like a five-point star, we can visualize Geispolsheim as being situated near the tip of the Northeast arm, jutting into Germany.¬† Boasting many small, beautiful villages nestled into hilly, forested terrain, the Northeast¬†region of France is well worth a visit.¬† While you’re there, be sure to stop at this¬†whimsical, old fashioned¬†chocolate museum!




Inner Cacao Pod (Beans and Pulp)


Grinding Cacao

At a glance, admission can seem a bit steep ( 8 Euro for adults, 6.50 Euro for children ages 5-15, children 4 and under are free).  While visiting the museum is a bit of a splurge, it is indeed very informative and entertaining.  After meandering through diorama displays depicting the Aztec history of chocolate, visitors are able to explore a wide variety of antique chocolate manufacturing equipment, ranging from heavy duty kitchen appliances to intricately shaped tin chocolate molds.






Antique Kitchen


Tin Molds


Creepy Victorian Display

The best part Рat least according to pint size travelers Рare the abundant chocolate samples available at the end of each visit.  A long table laden with big bowls of chocolate confections makes an irresistible stop for visitors of all ages.






More Samples

Before you leave, be sure to peruse the gift shop.  The wide variety of chocolate items range in price from just a few Euro cents to, well, very expensive.  The sights and delightful aromas make for fun window shopping and delicious travel souvenirs!


Chocolate High Heels!


Chocolate Fish!

Plum Jam-ly


Plums seem to grow everywhere in France.¬† Purple plums, black plums, red plums, blue plums, even green plums… scrappy little plum trees full of these tiny, tasty little fruits seem to spring up in the most unlikely of places.¬† I even found one determined little plum tree growing right through a rather ugly old chain link fence!

While plums are delicious, they don’t last long as whole fruit.¬† Unlike apples, plums lose their luster and become quite soft quickly.¬† That’s why, as soon as I procured a big bag of little plums, I turned them into Plum Jam-ly right away!


“Jam-ly,” you ask?¬† That’s easy.¬† Jam-ly is a cross between jam (made from whole, crushed fruit) and jelly (made from fruit juice).¬† The bag of plums I worked with happened to be clingstone plums – the kind where the pit, or stone, sticks to the plum flesh instead of popping away cleanly.¬† I simply cut the plum halves away from the stone with a paring knife as I would for making jam, and saved all of the stones (with little bits of plum flesh stuck to them) to boil in a pot of water as I would for making jelly.¬† Voila… Jam-ly!¬† This easy recipe lets you squeeze every drop of flavor from your seasonal plums.¬† Enjoy!

WIN_20140925_124819Ingredients (makes 4, half-pint jars)

1 quart of fresh plums, washed

1 1/2 cups water (approximate)

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons powdered pectin

WIN_20140925_1524021 star anise (or 1 cinnamon stick)


Step 1) Cut fruit away from stones, and chop fruit into small, bite size pieces.  Set aside.

Step 2) Place stones in a large pot and WIN_20140925_152846cover Рjust barely Рwith water.  Add star anise (or cinnamon stick) to the pot and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool until safe enough to handle before proceeding to step 3.

Step 3) Place a strainer over a second pot, and carefully pour the stones and liquid into the strainer.  Keep the liquid and any little bits of fruit that passes through the strainer!  Toss the stones into your compost bin.

Step 4) Add chopped plums, sugar, and pectin to the strained liquid and bring to a vigorous boil that cannot be stirred down.  Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.

Step 5) If you are canning your Jam-ly, ladle into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Cover with lids and rims, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Or, just refrigerate your Jam-ly and either share with friends or consume within two weeks.


Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus… He lives in a French patisserie!

I owe an apology to the¬†bearded guy in the red suit who lives at the North Pole.¬† I’m not trying to hurt his feelings.¬† It’s just that, really, there’s nothing he can fit on that reindeer-powered sleigh that compares to the magic… the absolute magic… of a French patisserie.¬† I’m not cooking for you today, just sharing a little magic.¬† Enjoy!


Meringue with chantille crème and fruit


Tarte aux prunes (plum tart)


Pain au chocolat


Eclairs and petit fours


Biscuits thé (tea cookies)


Macaroons (sigh…)