California Cioppino

When visiting my Aunt in California, I enjoyed awesome – and I mean awesome – cioppino. In an ironic twist, I was inspired to make a pot of California Cioppino 2,500 miles away on the Gulf Coast. The seafood varies, of course, between the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the main ingredients here – mussels, tilapia, bay scallops, and shrimp – can be found in any supermarket. Don’t worry if you’re nowhere near a coastline; frozen seafood is just fine for this dish. Just pick up the seafood that is available to you in your area, put on some flip flops, and pretend the snowbank you see from your kitchen window is a white sand beach.  😉

Note: The cioppino recipe below is a stew, intended to be served in a bowl, like soup, perhaps with a side of good bread. Some folks prefer cioppino as a pasta topping. If that’s more your style, then reduce the fish broth from 4 cups all the way down to 1 1/2 cups. Other than that single change, the rest of the recipe remains the same. Your resulting cioppino will be less brothy and will hold up when served over a plate of pasta.

Ingredients (Makes a big pot; serves 8+)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

4 cups fish broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

24 ounces frozen mussels in shells

12 ounces tilapia fillets, fresh or thawed if frozen, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

16 ounces frozen bay scallops (keep frozen!)

24 ounces raw shrimp (fresh or thawed if frozen)

1/4 cup fresh diced parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)


Step 1) In a large stockpot saute onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add celery and saute for one minute longer.

Step 2) Add fish broth, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and Old Bay Seasoning to the pot. (Don’t add the wine yet.) Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Add frozen mussels and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Step 4) Add tilapia (NOT frozen) and bay scallops (frozen). Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 3 minutes.

Step 5) Finally, add raw shrimp and wine. Simmer for a final 3 minutes. At this point the shrimp should be pink (not opaque), the scallops should be bright white (not opaque), the tilapia should be flaky, and the mussels are definitely ready! Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

Gulf Islands Shrimp Boil

Delicious, easy, and feeds a crowd – a Gulf Islands shrimp boil might just be the perfect, no fuss special occasion meal. You won’t need fancy dishes or silver utensils for this dish – this, friends, is a paper plates and paper napkins meal! Stuck in a polar vortex and need a mood boost? Put your heavy coat away and fish out your flip flops. Turn on some island music, slather on some coconut lotion, close your drapes and pretend it’s summertime while you enjoy this dish. Winter really will end, eventually.

Ingredients (Serves 6; recipe halves easily)

8 cups water

3 chicken bouillon cubes

1 teaspoon steak seasoning mix (or Old Bay)

1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes

12 mini cobs of sweet corn (frozen is fine)

2 small zucchini, sliced 3/4 inch thick

3 pounds fresh Gulf shrimp (unpeeled or peeled, it’s up to you – also, frozen and thawed raw shrimp will work fine)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon Sriracha

1 lemon, sliced into wedges


Step 1) Bring water, bouillon cubes, and steak seasoning (or Old Bay) to a boil in a large pot.

Step 2) Add potatoes, whole, to boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.

Step 3) After 10 minutes, add frozen corn cobs to boiling water. Boil for an additional 5 minutes (if corn is thawed, boil for only 2 minutes).

Step 4) After 5 minutes (or 2 minutes if corn was thawed), add shrimp and zucchini. Boil for an additional 3 minutes, or until shrimp have lost their opaque color and have turned completely pink.

Step 5) Remove pot from heat and carefully drain off liquid. Tip pot over a LARGE serving platter (a large turkey platter or jelly roll pan works well for this) and spread out potatoes, corn, shrimp, and zucchini.

Step 6) Stir together melted butter and sriracha. Drizzle butter mixture over the platter.

Step 7) Squeeze lemon wedges over platter and then leave the lemon wedges on the platter.

Enjoy! Leftovers are delicious warm or cold.

Orange Butter Shrimp

Orange Butter Shrimp served over noodles

Today’s bargain find at the local Gulf Coast seafood market was unassuming, small Gulf shrimp. These little guys might not be the most exotic item at the market, but wow are they delicious! This simple preparation will have you dining on tasty shrimp in minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup sliced orange segments, sliced


Step 1) Sautee garlic in butter and olive oil over low-medium heat for one minute.

Step 2) Add shrimp and orange juice. Sautee for three minutes or until shrimp have turned pink (make sure there are no opaque sections on the shrimp remaining).

Step 3) Serve over noodles, spiralized zucchini, or lettuce. Garnish with sliced orange segments.

How easy was that?!

Low-Carb Shrimp Satay Wraps

Creamy, spicy satay sauce is the perfect dressing for fresh Gulf shrimp. Tossed with fresh, spiralized zucchini and wrapped in crispy cabbage leaves, this dish packs a low-carb, high flavor punch. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Makes 8 wraps)

12 ounces cold cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 small zucchini, spiralized (about 1 1/2 cups)

8 raw cabbage leaves, thick center vein removed

For the satay sauce:

1/4 cup all natural peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon (or more) sriracha sauce


Step 1) Whisk together satay sauce ingredients until sauce is smooth and uniform. Chill.

Step 2) Toss together chilled satay sauce, cold shrimp, and spiralized zucchini.

Step 3) Scoop about 1/4 cup of shrimp mixture onto each deveined cabbage leaf (see below). It’s easier to fold or roll the cabbage leaves as you eat them. I recommend serving these open-faced, as shown at the top. Enjoy!

Baked Snapper Wings

Baked Snapper Wing with Spicy Dipping Sauce

Both whole red snapper and red snapper filets are pretty common in Gulf Coast seafood markets. They are also pretty darn expensive. Today, however, I stumbled across a curious find tucked in the ice right between those plump whole fish and jumbo filets… an unassuming Post-It note declared “Red Snapper Wings, $3/lb.” Now, I’ve never heard of a fish wing, but for $3 a pound I’m not above asking for details! The fishmonger explained that “wings” are the cut above the filet and below the head on any large fish. This cut, she explained, contains bone and fins, but also a surprising amount of tender meat. Alrightie, let’s try fish wings!

As it happens, fish wings are just about the easiest thing you can make for a quick snack or simple dinner on the Gulf Coast. Simply arrange your wings skin side up on a greased baking pan, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. That’s it. The end. Just pick them up, or use a fork if you are feeling fancy, and eat them as you would a chicken wing. A simple spicy mayo sauce may be served alongside: mix together 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 1 minced garlic clove, and 2 teaspoon sriracha sauce. Enjoy!

Spiralized Carrot Salad

carrot1Eat Well, Be Well!

We shared this recipe on Crowded Earth Kitchen several years ago, and since that time quite a few health conscious readers have joined the Crowded Earth Kitchen circle of friends. Everything about this light and crunchy salad is aimed at wellness, from the cancer fighting phytochemicals in carrots to the anti-angiogenic compounds in the simple dressing ingredients. If your local market sells carrots in a variety of colors, great! Different colors (orange, yellow, purple, red) indicate different phytochemicals, and we want to invite lots of those disease fighters to this dinner party! Don’t worry if you can’t find other colors, though – commonly available orange carrots are super healthy on their own. Read more about the awesome properties of carrots here!


I’m using my Veggetti vegetable spiralizer for this carrot salad. For just a few dollars, it offers a great way to enjoy a variety of crunchy vegetables.

Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer, Makes Veggie Pasta

If you don’t have a vegetable spiralizer, that’s fine – you can make this same recipe with grated or shredded carrots. Either way, your salad will be delicious!

Ingredients (Serves 1 as a meal or 2 as a side)

2 large or 3 small carrots

For the dressing:

1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger

1 diced clove of garlic

1/4 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Braggs Liquid Aminos (or use soy sauce)

1 sprig of fresh mint (or 1/2 teaspoon of dried, crushed mint)



Step 1) Spiralize or shred your carrots. Arrange on a serving plate.

Step 2) Combine all dressing ingredients in a small blender. Blend until onion is pulverized and a creamy emulsion forms.

Step 3) Drizzle dressing over carrots. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately.

Simple Fish Head Stew

At a local Gulf Coast seafood market, I was able to procure the head of a red snapper for $1. It was big – around 1 1/2 pounds, and sizeable enough to almost fill the bottom of a stockpot – quite a deal for $1! To put that in perspective, if you would like a fresh red snapper head with the rest of the red snapper attached, well, that will set you back upward of $30. Red snapper is not an economical fish, so we’re getting creative to capture red snapper flavor without the red snapper cost!

To make fish head broth, just get yourself a fish head and drop it in the bottom of a stockpot. Ask your butcher or fishmonger for a fish head if you don’t see them… if a market sells fresh fish fillets, they must have had heads at some point, yes? Cover the fish head with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Strain the liquid into a separate pot, and Voila! Now you have mild and delicious red snapper broth as a base for your fish head stew.

If you’d like to pick the meat off of the cooked fish head, go for it. I pulled a bit of meat off of each of the sides or “cheeks,” but that’s about it. Fully dissecting a large fish head is not for the faint of heart; if you’re a little squeamish, just strain your broth and discard the head entirely. No worries.

NOTE: This version of simple fish head stew is low-carb and keto friendly. If carbs are not an issue, consider adding 1 or 2 peeled, cubed raw potatoes and 1 cup of corn kernels along with your seafood in step 1. Either or both would make delicious additions to your stew!

Moving on, here’s what you’ll need to turn your fish head broth into a delicious fish head stew:

Ingredients (Makes a big pot)

10 cups fish head broth (see above)

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 pound of seafood (I used tilapia fillets because they’re inexpensive; other ideas include raw peeled shrimp, canned minced clams, or small bay scallops – use about 1 pound total, in any combination.)

2 slices bacon, diced

1 cloves garlic, minced

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1, 16oz bag “California blend” frozen vegetables, chopped small

1 cup firmly packed chopped spinach

1/2 cup half and half cream


Step 1) Bring strained fish head broth (see above) to a boil. Add seafood and bouillon cubes. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer over low heat, uncovered.

Step 2) While seafood is simmering in broth, fry diced bacon in a small skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside; do not drain or clean the skillet!

Step 3) Add zucchini and garlic to the skillet with the bacon fat. Sautee for about 3 minutes, until you can smell the garlic and the zucchini peel turns bright green. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 4) Check your seafood. If you are using tilapia fillets or bay scallops, they should be turning from an opaque color to white. If you are using shrimp, they should be turning pink. When the seafood appears almost cooked through (i.e., mostly white or mostly pink), add all of the vegetables to the pot. Continue simmering over low heat until the seafood is completely cooked, and any fish in your stew flakes easily.

Step 5) When the seafood is completely cooked, remove stew from heat and allow to cool for one minute. Then, add half and half cream.

Step 6) Ladle your fish head stew into bowls. If desired, ladle into bowls over a scoop of cooked white rice (optional). Garnish with crispy fried bacon and serve immediately!

Easy Tuna Rendang

Easy Tuna Rendang over rice with a side of shrimp and greens

Rendang, a traditional Indonesian dish, involves simmering meat in a rich, fragrant sauce of coconut milk, chilies, and myriad spices. Beef rendang is most common, but rendang can also be made from other meats (such as pork, chicken, or goat) and hearty fish. Here on the Gulf Coast, we’re taking advantage of the availability of right-off-the-boat seafood and are making rendang using a fresh tuna steak.

One pound of fresh Yellowfin Tuna steak

Full disclosure: While the freezer in our Midwest home is stocked with small quantities of goodies such as lime leaves, lemongrass stalks, Thai chilies, and galangal, our traveling kitchen here on the Gulf Coast is not. Consequently, we’ve taken liberties – a lot of liberties – with the traditional rendang base. That’s why we’re calling it “Easy.” The results were quite tasty (or we wouldn’t share them with you!). So, if you’re looking for an EASY way to capture the general flavor of rendang without investing in a list of niche ingredients, give this a whirl!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound Yellowfin tuna steak, cut into 2 inch cubes

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 can coconut milk

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 onion, minced

2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce (more or less to taste)


Step 1) Melt coconut oil in large skillet over high heat. Sear tuna over high heat for about 30 seconds. Flip tuna over and sear an additional 30 seconds.

Step 2) Reduce heat to low and add remaining ingredients to skillet. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Serve over rice.

Life is short. Try something new!

100 Calorie Keto Coconut Pops

Coconut milk sometimes gets a bad rap for being high in fat and calories; it is indeed fat- and calorie-dense. But here’s the thing. Coconut milk is only “bad for you” if you consume it by the gallon, or if you are using coconut milk to make a massive quantity of carbohydrates taste good. In moderation, coconut milk is a healthy addition to a low-carb diet, and adds much needed variety to keto meals.

Today at Crowded Earth Kitchen we are sharing an idea rather than a recipe, because really friends, these popsicles only contain two ingredients. Simply pop open a can of coconut milk, pour about 1/4 of the can in a small bowl, and whisk 1 generous teaspoon of pure cocoa powder into that small bowl. Then, fill your popsicle molds 1/3 full with coconut milk right from the can. Drizzle a bit of cocoa-enhanced coconut milk into each mold, and repeat until the molds are full. One can of coconut milk will fill 6 to 8 popsicle molds, depending upon the size of your molds (mine hold 1/4 cup each). Place filled popsicle molds in freezer, and enjoy when firm.

Note: If you like your popsicles a little sweeter, feel free to blend a tablespoon or two of Stevia or your preferred sweetener into the can of coconut milk first. I think the cocoa powder adds enough flavor that I don’t use any sweetener at all.

Life is short. Play with your food!

Shrimp Alfredo Two Ways

Shrimp Alfredo is a really simple dish that tastes like you cooked all day. Rich alfredo sauce packs a caloric punch, but served over zucchini noodles it is low-carb and keto friendly. If you prefer an old school helping of pasta under your shrimp alfredo, well, that’s great too. We’re all friends here at Crowded Earth Kitchen.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 pound small fresh shrimp (41/50 per pound), peeled and tails removed

2/3 cup salted butter

1 clove garlic, minced

2/3 cup half and half

2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound cooked pasta OR 4 small zucchini, spiralized


1) Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Add minced garlic and shrimp. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until shrimp are no longer pink.

2) Remove shrimp from skillet and set aside. DO NOT DRAIN THE SKILLET. There will be some liquid in the skillet, and that’s OK!

3) Add remaining butter and the half and half to the skillet. Once the butter is melted, add parmesan cheese. Whisk lightly but constantly over low-medium heat until the parmesan is fully melted and the sauce thickens. Please note: right before the sauce is done, it’s normal for the parmesan to look sort of clumpy and weird. You haven’t done anything wrong – just keep whisking.

4) Once the alfredo sauce is smooth, add the shrimp back to the skillet. Heat everything for 30 seconds or so, just to warm up the shrimp.

5) Serve shrimp alfredo over pasta or zucchini spirals. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Life is short. Eat good food!

Naked Strawberry Jam

If you are following a low sugar or no sugar diet (diabetics, keto and paleo folks, talkin’ to you here!), satisfying a sweet tooth can be a bit of a challenge. Artificial sweeteners are OK sometimes, but I think they give homemade jam a strange aftertaste. Luckily, strawberries are already sweet. After years of adding sugar to make traditional strawberry jam, I tried making a “naked” batch – no sugar, no artificial sweeteners at all.

Why should you believe me that Naked Strawberry Jam is delicious? Because my little Half-Pint has a sweet tooth that could fill the mouth of a saber-toothed tiger. The child would put honey on top of the maple syrup on his pancakes if I allowed it. I gave him a spoonful of Naked Strawberry Jam and Half-Pint declared it “Delicious!” So there you have it.

Ingredients and Directions: Cut the green tops off of two quarts of strawberries. Cut strawberries in quarters, and add to a large pot. Stir 3 tablespoons of powdered low-sugar pectin into the strawberries and cook over low-medium heat for five minutes, stirring frequently. If you want a smooth jam, use a potato masher to crush the quartered strawberries. Add a dash of cinnamon (optional) if you’re feeling fancy. After five minutes, turn the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and remains boiling for one minute. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Done!

Refrigerate when cool, or store in freezer.

Keto Chocolate Pudding

Whether you are keto, paleo, vegan, gluten free, or just plain looking for a more nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, this chocolate pudding recipe is worth a try. It’s also delicious frozen into popsicles – in fact, popsicles are my favorite way to enjoy this treat. Have fun!

No, the finished chocolate pudding doesn’t taste like avocados. Trust me!

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

2 ripe avocados

2/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (real coconut milk – not coconut water, and not “light” coconut milk)

1/4 cup stevia powder (or use real sugar if desired)

1/3 cup cocoa powder (100% cocoa)

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

A few dark chocolate chips to garnish (optional)


In a blender, combine all ingredients in the order listed. Blend until completely smooth. Refrigerate before serving, or freeze in popsicle molds. This really couldn’t be any simpler!

One serving contains approximately 4 net carbs.

Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup


‘Tis the season of sugary snacks, tipsy drinks, and uber delicious, fat-laden appetizers. I love it, the kids love it, and frankly I’m skeptical of anyone who claims NOT to enjoy the nutritional free for all that tends to be December.

BUT… sometimes we need a break from the festive dining, a healthy and hearty “reset.” Enter Eat-Your-Veggies Lentil Soup.

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 tastes terrific!


Dried Red Lentils

Ingredients (Makes 1 big pot)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 carrots (2 orange and 2 yellow, if possible), chopped

1 tablespoon grated frozen turmeric root (or 1 teaspoon dried ground turmeric)

1 tablespoon grated frozen ginger root (or 1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger)


Grated Frozen Turmeric Root

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 3/4 cups dried red lentils

6 cups water

2 cups salsa

2 cups packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.), chopped

Plain Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, and parsley to garnish



Step 1) Saute the first eight ingredients in a large stockpot over low-medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Add lentils and water. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 – 40 minutes or until lentils and carrots are almost tender. If soup becomes too thick, add additional water, 1/2 cup at a time.

Step 3) During last five minutes of cooking, add salsa and chopped greens. Stir well.

Step 4) Ladle soup into serving bowls. Top each bowl with 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve immediately.

White Pumpkin Seeds

White pumpkins are fun to carve for Halloween, and if you’re carving pumpkins of course you have to roast the seeds! Simply separate the seeds from the inner pulp (the “goo” if you’re a kid), rinse well, and spread in on a well greased pan. I prefer to use real butter for this, coating a baking pan with approximately 1 tablespoon of melted butter for each cup of seeds. Then, sprinkle generously with your favorite seasoning. Half-Pint is on a ranch kick, so we used the ranch seasoning mix shown above. Roast in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes, flipping seeds with a spatula halfway through. Allow to cool slightly before enjoying.

Happy Halloween!

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 Appétit!

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.