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!

 

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.

 

Microwave Potato Chips

chips1Our garden produced a nice crop of lovely little purple potatoes this year. The insides are ringed with beautiful shades of violet, but the small size of these potatoes makes them impractical to peel. Voila! Potato chips! What a simple way to show off the color of these heirloom veggies!

On our Kitchen Gadgets page, we’ve provided a link to an affordable gadget which makes potato chips (oil free) in the microwave. It works really well, but makes small batches. We have a LOT of potatoes, and needed to find a way to process larger batches of chips. Aha! This worked like a charm:chips3

Emson Bacon Wave, Microwave Bacon Cooker

Yes, friends, an “As Seen On TV” microwave bacon maker, no joke! We used a mandolin to slice potatoes really thin, sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt, and arranged them in the bacon maker as shown:chips2

We microwaved our chips for approximately 6 minutes (until the chips started to brown). Done! So simple! What a great way to enjoy the high fiber goodness of garden fresh potatoes, without adding fat.

PS – this same technique works for vegetable chips made from yams, beets, carrots, and parsnips. Stay tuned!

 

Grown-Up Milkshakes

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Grown-Up Milkshakes

It’s hot outside! Cool down with a milkshake… but keep this one away from the kiddos.  😉

Ingredients (Makes 2 servings)

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks

4 ice cubes

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup rum cream

1/4 cup dark rum

Directions

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into festive glasses. Garnish with whipped cream if desired!

 

Signature Recipe: Japanese Shoyu Ramen

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The results of Crowded Earth Kitchen’s ramen poll are in! Today we’re making Crowded Earth Kitchen’s version of Shoyu Ramen, the most popular type of ramen which is flavored with soy sauce. The recipe below is pretty simple to make, and offers great flavor without a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. We’re also using pork tenderloin instead of pork belly, because pork tenderloin is more affordable and more readily available in much of the US. If you’ve enjoyed ramen with pork belly, I think you’ll find the taste of this recipe very comparable.

Two tips: First, don’t skimp on the pork stock or the chicken stock. If you have time to make your own, that’s what I recommend. If not, look for good quality stock from a butcher or specialty grocery store. Ramen “is” the broth… if the broth is just OK, your finished product will be just OK. If your broth is delicious, your ramen bowls will be delicious! Second, if you have time, it’s worth preparing your pork tenderloin the day before you enjoy your ramen bowls.

Let’s get started!

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Dried shiitakes, ginger, onion, and garlic

Ingredients (Serves 6)

16 ounces dried wheat flour ramen noodles

1 cup thinly sliced greens (I used baby bok choy)

1 cup sliced bamboo shoots

3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved

(Optional) 1 sheet nori (seaweed), cut into six pieces

For the meat:

1 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon white wine (I used Umeshu)

For the broth:

3 quarts pork stock

1 quart chicken stock

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, sliced thin

Directions

WIN_20160701_164234Step 1) Prepare your pork tenderloin. In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar, and white wine to make a paste. Rub this paste all over your pork tenderloin. Let your pork tenderloin rest in a baking pan, covered, in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight (overnight is best). Then, roast your pork tenderloin, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Check your pork tenderloin with a meat thermometer – the internal temperature should be 145 degrees. Allow your pork tenderloin to rest for 10 minutes. Slice thin and refrigerate.

WIN_20160701_154316Step 2) Prepare your broth. In a large pot, combine pork stock, chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, dried shiitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until volume is reduced by half. This will take approximately an hour, depending upon how gently or vigorously your pot simmers. I prefer a slow simmer. Allow broth to cool, then ladle or pour through a sieve into a second pot. This will strain out all of the flavor additives (mushrooms, onion pieces, garlic and ginger), leaving you with a clear, flavor-packed ramen broth! At this point, you can freeze your broth for future use, refrigerate your broth to use tomorrow, or return your broth to a gentle boil and proceed with Step 3!

Step 3) Prepare your noodles. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook your noodles according to package directions. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR NOODLES. When in doubt, it’s better to undercook the noodles a bit, as they will continue to cook in Step 4. Mushy noodles make terrible ramen. Seriously… don’t overcook the noodles!

Step 4) Assemble and enjoy! Here’s the fun part. First, transfer a serving of cooked noodles to a large single-serving bowl (your biggest cereal bowls will work). Second, arrange a few slices of pork tenderloin, a hard boiled egg half, a few bamboo shoots, and a few sliced greens around the edges of the bowl. Don’t mix up the toppings like you would for American-style soup… each ramen topping should occupy its own place along the edge of the bowl. Third, carefully ladle hot broth over the top of everything, to warm the ingredients. The broth should just barely cover the top the noodles… don’t drown your ramen bowl in broth. Fourth, place a small square of nori on the top of your bowl and serve immediately!

When you make this ramen, I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know if you are now as ramen obsessed as we are here at Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Cheesy Hot Crab Dip

WIN_20160530_172010Seriously friends, Cheesy Hot Crab Dip is awesome. Set a dish of this on the deck with a bowl of tortilla chips at your next cookout, and it will surely disappear before the grill is ready. Summer is short. Have some delicious fun!

WIN_20160530_164641Ingredients (Fills one pie plate)

8 ounces light cream cheese, softened

8 ounces light sour cream

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)

12 ounces imitation crab meat, diced

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon finely diced onion

1/2 teaspoon ground paprika

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese

WIN_20160530_165427Directions

Step 1) Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese in a medium size mixing bowl for about 30 seconds. Add all remaining ingredients except for the shredded cheddar cheese, and blend well.

Step 2) Transfer the cheesy crab dip mixture to a pie dish (9 inch diameter). Spread so that the top is even, and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.

Step 3) Bake your Cheesy Hot Crab Dip in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until the dip is bubbly and the top begins to turn golden brown.

Step 4) Allow to cool slightly (5 minutes or less) before serving.

Springtime Tea Party

 

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Recently, I hosted a Springtime Tea Party. It was great fun! If you have a few friends you haven’t seen in a while (don’t we all?), consider inviting them over for a simple tea. Here are a few suggestions!

First, don’t worry about being matchy-matchy.

I used an inexpensive tablecloth to cover an old, scratched up kitchen table. It looked juuussst fine, and didn’t require a big investment. My little fruit bowls are completely different from my plates, and yet they worked together nicely. Those little dishes of chocolate? Mismatched! The napkins? Borrowed from my mother! You get the idea.

Second, if you don’t want to cook from scratch, don’t.

A tea party does not require hours of slaving away in the kitchen. If you don’t feel like spending prep time in your kitchen, here is a “recipe” for a fuss-free tea party:

Boil a pot of water, and steep a pot of tea! Offer cream and sugar on the side.

Break one or two high-quality chocolate bars into bite size pieces, and arrange the pieces in a small serving dish.

Layer a few cups of berries in a pretty bowl. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

Purchase a tray of cookies or scones. My local Aldi offers a surprising variety of delicious cookies at very reasonable prices!

gazpachoThinly slice a loaf of artisan bread from your local bakery. Spread each slice with butter or cream cheese, and top with thin slices of cucumber or prosciutto. Delicious!

Feel like cooking?

If you’d like to prepare a dish or two from scratch, here are a few suggestions:

croque ingredientsSpringtime Gazpacho served in little tea cups makes a lovely chilled starter!

Mini Croque Monsieurs make lovely tea sandwiches!

Rainbow Shortcake makes a beautiful, individually plated dessert!

 

 

rainbow shortcake

Life is short. Enjoy your friends!

Easy Pulled Pork

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This is so easy, I don’t know why we haven’t made this a million times. If you happen by for dinner in the near future, odds are we’ll be feeding you pulled pork. Once you try a bite, you won’t mind at all that I didn’t fuss over your dinner! In fact, I think you’ll go home and make a big pot yourself.  🙂

Ingredients (Makes 1 big ol’ pot of pulled pork, enough for 12 – 16 hearty sandwiches)

Boneless pork loin roast (about 3 pounds)

1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1/2 cup white vinegar

For the brine:

2 cups water

2 cups ice cubes

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

Directions

Step 1) Bring water, salt, brown sugar, and whole mustard seeds to a boil in a large pot. Stir well to make sure all of the brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add ice cubes to the brine, and stir to melt the cubes and cool the brine.

Step 2) Place the pork roast in a gallon size ziploc bag, and set the bag in a pan with sides (in case the bag leaks). Carefully ladle brine into the ziploc bag to cover the pork roast, and close the bag. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Step 3) After 24 hours, remove the pork roast from the brine and place the roast in a baking pan with a lid.

Step 4) Whisk together 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup BBQ sauce. Pour this mixture over the pork roast, and place the lid on the baking pan.

Step 5) Place the covered pork roast in a preheated 300 degree oven for 6 hours. Really, 6 hours.

Step 6) After 6 hours, remove the lid from the baking pan and pull the pork roast apart with forks. This will be very, very easy! Serve with rolls and coleslaw. Enjoy!

Chiles en Nogada

WIN_20150924_182712 Chiles en Nogada is an amazing dish from Puebla, Mexico. The green poblano peppers, white creamy sauce, and red pomegranate seeds bring the colors of the Mexican flag together in one bright burst of flavor. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love Mexican cuisine… and of all of the Mexican dishes we’ve sampled, we love Chiles en Nogada the very most! It’s a beautiful, memorable dish to serve at a dinner party, and the completed dish freezes very well.

Many versions of Chiles en Nogada include Continue reading

Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind

WIN_20160420_175431Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind is an old school recipe which hails back to the Great Depression, when nothing was wasted. Depression era cooks were creative, not because it was chic but because it was necessary. Children love the sweet, tangy taste of these pickles right from the jar. Grown-ups love them as bacon wrapped party snacks, broiled and enjoyed while hot. However you enjoy them, I can guarantee that once you’ve sampled Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rind, you’ll never look at a whole watermelon quite the same way again!

WIN_20160418_191438Ingredients (Makes about 4 pint jars)

Rind from one large watermelon

1/2 cup salt

6 cups cold water Continue reading

English Lemon Curd

WIN_20160303_144850After spending several days making batch after batch of magnificent French macarons, we have lots of leftover egg yolks in the refrigerator! Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we don’t waste ingredients. We considered making pasta with our egg yolks, but our sweet tooth won instead… English Lemon Curd is the winner! Sweet and tangy, silky and scrumptious, the English were sure onto a good thing when they thought to cook egg yolks, lemon, sugar, and butter into a delicious spread. Enjoy English Lemon Curd on scones, or as a filling in individual fruit tarts.

WIN_20160303_134623We’re using sweet, thin skinned little Meyer lemons today, because they are in season and steeply discounted at the market. If the larger, more common lemons are more economical where you live, no worries. Any lemons will work in this recipe. Please don’t use margarine, however… English Lemon Curd requires real butter.

Let’s get started!

WIN_20160303_140743Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups) Continue reading

Springtime Chocolate Truffles

WIN_20160313_171730At Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love chocolate truffles. They’re ridiculously easy to make, beautiful when dipped in chocolate coating, and make lovely hostess gifts. This recipe for Springtime Chocolate Truffles is so easy – what are you waiting for?

Ingredients (Makes about 36 truffles)

4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips Continue reading

Lemon Peeps Pie

WIN_20160325_113521I began today’s kitchen adventures with every intention of making a lemon meringue pie. I had a few beautiful little Meyer lemons to use up, and a ready-to-bake pie crust (no apologies) in my fridge. When I got to the part where I should have beat egg whites into meringue, I got to thinking…

It’s almost Easter…

Marshmallow is sort of like meringue…

and those little Peeps chicks are cute!

So, here we are. Lemon Peeps Pie is lemony, marshmallowy, cute, and delicious. Have a sense of humor, and have a Happy Easter!

WIN_20160325_110948Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 baked pie crust (follow directions on a refrigerated crust, or buy a pie crust from the baking aisle at the market)

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons corn starch Continue reading

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

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Here’s a new spin on an old favorite, a truffle that tastes like a peanut butter cup! While some truffle recipes are a bit fussy, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles are super easy. You can use either creamy or chunky peanut butter, depending upon the texture you prefer. You could even substitute the peanut butter for something a little fancier, like almond butter or crème de marron. Be creative and have fun!

WIN_20160214_123938Ingredients (Makes about 36 truffles)

4 ounces semi sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup peanut butter Continue reading