October is the perfect time of year to take advantage of the abundance of pie pumpkins everywhere. The pumpkins featured in this recipe were Continue reading
Pumpkin 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
Don’t kill the messenger, friends, but the holiday season will be here in the blink of an eye (I know, I know…). A pretty bottle of Nalewka Babuni makes a wonderful gift! Translated approximately as “Grandma’s Liqueur,” Nalewka (pronounced “Na-LEF-ka”) Babuni is Continue reading
Here 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
‘Tis the season for holiday parties and other food-appropriate gatherings. Consider bringing an appetizer to your next event… something fun that doesn’t require utensils to enjoy. Crab Melt Appetizers are perfect for this, because they’re easy to prepare and completely portable. You can prepare them ahead of time right up until the very last step (broiling). Drive them to your party on a baking sheet, borrow your host’s broiler for a quick few minutes, and Voila! Bubbling hot Crab Melt Appetizers for everyone!
8 ounces mild cheddar cheese, shredded
8 ounces crabmeat (canned is fine)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup green olives, sliced thin
Step 1) Melt cheddar cheese, butter, and Worcestershire sauce in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently.
Step 3) Use a teaspoon to spread the crab mixture onto slices of French bread. Top with a few slices of green olive.
Step 4) Arrange slices on a baking sheet and broil for 3 – 5 minutes or until the cheese on your crab melts begins to bubble and brown.
Step 5) Remove from broiler and serve. Happy Holidays!
If you love these flavors as much as we do, you might want to experiment with the following variations…
- Instead of topping your crab melt appetizers with green olives, try thin slices of red bell pepper. So pretty!
- Instead of spreading the crab mixture onto slices of French bread, keep it warm in a fondue pot. Set a bowl of bread cubes and fondue forks alongside the fondue pot, and invite your guests to help themselves to Crab Melt Fondue!
- Feeling adventurous? Try scooping the seeds out of cherry tomatoes, and spooning the crab and cheese mixture into the hollowed out tomatoes. Arrange tomatoes in a pie dish so that they are touching each other (to prevent tomatoes from tipping over). Broil until the crab melt mixture begins to turn golden brown. So fancy!
Here you have it – the Crowded Earth Kitchen “Top Ten” list of affordable kitchen gadgets we simply love. There are no status symbols on this list… if you’re looking for a TV show food processor that costs more than many people pay for rent, you’ll need to look some place else. We’re pretty frugal and low tech around here. Check out the “old standbys” that we use often and highly recommend!
1) CANNING SUPPLIES. Cooks who learn to preserve food through simple, hot water bath canning save more money than cooks who don’t. Investing in a few basic canning supplies will pay off quickly!
2) A STOCKPOT. You can get away with saucepans and little one-quart pots when you’re living on ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, but when you get serious about cooking, you need a stockpot. Yes, you do.
3) AN IMMERSION BLENDER. I resisted this for a while, and tried ladling soup back and forth from a stockpot to a standing blender. The first time I burned myself, I stopped being (quite so) cheap and bought an immersion blender.
4) A BUNDT PAN. I don’t have a huge assortment of baking pans, but I do love my Bundt pan. I use it for everything from delicious, light sponge cakes to decadent pecan rolls. The shape looks fancy – anything baked in a Bundt pan makes a great buffet centerpiece!
5) A FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKER. Best… coffee… ever! Just add coffee grounds and boiling water – this couldn’t be any easier. It works with tea leaves, as well.
6) INDIVIDUAL RAMEKIN DISHES. These are great for serving appetizers and desserts.
7) OIL FREE, MICROWAVE POTATO CHIP MAKER. I wouldn’t have believed it if my mother didn’t buy one first to try it out, but this little gadget is amazing! You can make awesome snack chips out of potatoes and other vegetables (sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, you name it) without any added fat. How cool is that?!
8) Silicon Mat for Macarons. After several trips to France, I have developed a borderline obsession with macarons. These silicon mats are perfect for beginners, and are less than $5! Recipes coming soon…
9) Ninja Master Prep. This blender is absolutely fabulous, and completely affordable! For approximately $30, this blender will do everything from quickly pureeing soups to effortlessly crushing ice. How cool is that?
10) 17-Piece Tools and Gadgets Set. Look, Everybody needs these things in their kitchen, especially if they’re just starting out. Whether you need to stir, whisk, ladle, peel, measure, scrape, open, or grate, this set does it all.
There you have it… a short list of Crowded Earth Kitchen favorites! What’s your favorite gadget in your kitchen? Feel free to comment below!
So, you agreed to bake pie for the big dinner this week. You had high hopes of learning to make crust from scratch, complete with fancy edges, a lattice top, and all of the frou-frou that you saw on that gourmet food magazine. Then life intervened and you got busy. Don’t worry. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ve got you covered!
To save time and sanity this holiday week, we’re starting with a store bought, roll-out pie crust. If you’re feeling obligated to make a scratch crust, that’s cool – click on the link above and we’ll walk you through it. But seriously, nobody is going to shun this awesome Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie because you skipped a few steps with the roll-out crust. I doubt they’ll even know the difference.
Let’s get started!
1 roll-out pie crust
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 cup (8 oz) evaporated milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
Step 1) Roll pie crust into a glass pie pan. This is easiest when the pie crust has been allowed to rest on a counter top for about 10 minutes before unrolling. If you try to unroll the pie crust right from the fridge, it will crack. If you let it get too warm, it will stick. 10 minutes is just about right!
Step 2) Trim the pie crust even with the edge of the pie pan. Cut little shapes out of the scraps if you wish, to use as a garnish.
Step 3) Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Spread mixture on bottom of pie crust as shown.
Step 4) In a medium size mixing bowl, beat eggs and pumpkin. Add sugar, spices, and salt. Finally, add evaporated milk a little at a time until fully incorporated.
Step 6) If using small crust shapes as a garnish, set small crust shapes on a baking sheet and place in the oven for the final 10 minutes of pie baking time. Place baked crust shapes on top of the baked pie.
Easy peasy! Today’s post is more “technique” than “recipe”. If you’re roasting a turkey, baking a ham, or cooking any other large portion of meat in the oven, you may as well make homemade gravy! Let’s get started.
Drippings from roasting pan
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Step 1) After you remove your turkey (or other meat) from your roasting pan, scrape all of those funky looking drippings into a sieve placed over a saucepan (see photo). Discard the solids in the sieve.
Step 2) Measure the liquid from the drippings. You need approximately 2 cups for gravy, but you may not have two cups of liquid from the roasting pan. No worries! If you have one cup of liquid from the pan, add 1 cup of broth (chicken broth works for turkey drippings) or water. Make sure you don’t add more water than liquid from the pan. For example, if you only have 1/2 cup of liquid from the drippings, then you can add 1/2 cup of water or broth to make 1 cup of gravy.
Step 3) Bring your liquid to a gentle boil.
Step 4) In a small container (a coffee mug works well), combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water. Whisk together until absolutely smooth… there should not be even one tiny little lump in the cornstarch mixture! Alternately, you could use a small plastic container with a tight fitting lid, and shake the cornstarch/water mixture until smooth.
Step 6) If you want thicker gravy, use an additional tablespoon of cornstarch and repeat steps 4 and 5.
DO NOT ADD POWDERED CORNSTARCH DIRECTLY TO THE GRAVY WITHOUT FIRST BLENDING WITH COLD WATER. Seriously. You will end up with a weird, lumpy mess. I, ah, know someone who made this mistake once because she was, ah, in a hurry. Or so I’m told. It was gross. Or at least that’s what a little bird told me. 😉
You’ll notice that we didn’t add any seasoning to our gravy. This is because I’m assuming that the meat you roasted was seasoned, and those seasonings have already flavored your pan drippings. Taste your gravy. If it’s bland, add salt and pepper a PINCH at a time, tasting after each pinch. You can always add more salt and pepper, but once it’s in there, it’s in there. Don’t overdo it.
That’s all! Easy peasy!
For many years, I was apprehensive about roasting a turkey. I’m not really sure why. The first year I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in my own home, I ordered a turkey from a deli – precooked, with ready-made gravy on the side! At the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea. Now, I don’t understand what the fuss was all about.
Roasting a turkey is really, really easy. Before we get started, here are a few pointers. Other cooks may disagree – if so, please join the turkey conversation by posting a comment below!
- If there’s not a big price difference between fresh and frozen, buy a fresh turkey. They’re juicier, which is wonderful because roasting is a dry cooking process. I bought a fresh turkey at Aldi for 99 cents per pound.
- Unless you have 5 or 6 days to allow a frozen turkey to thaw in your refrigerator, you need to buy a fresh turkey. I have never… not once… seen a frozen turkey fully thawed after only 3 days in my refrigerator (which is what the directions on the turkey wrapping often promise).
- Bigger is not better. If you’re feeding a lot of people, consider buying two small turkeys (10 – 12 pounds each) instead of one, massive bird. Smaller turkeys roast more evenly, and because they require less time in the oven, they are less likely to dry out.
- You don’t need a special roasting pan, a baster, a “turkey bag” (to cook a turkey in plastic??), or any other strange turkey paraphernalia. A 10 pound turkey will fit in a 9×13 cake pan. A larger turkey will fit on a jelly roll pan, or any baking sheet with sides at least 1 inch high.
Let’s get started!
1 small, fresh turkey (10 – 12 pounds)
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter (not margarine), melted
Step 1) In the kitchen sink, remove your turkey from the wrapping. Find the bag of giblets and remove it from your turkey. Check both ends of your turkey for that bag of giblets!
Step 2) Rinse your turkey with cold water on the inside and the outside. Lift the turkey and turn it upside down to drain for a moment. Pat the turkey dry with a clean kitchen towel (and put that towel immediately in the hamper, so you don’t accidentally use it for anything else).
Step 3) Place your turkey in a pan or on a roasting sheet. Rub salt and pepper onto the skin.
Step 4) Poke a few holes with a paring knife in each lemon. Insert rosemary sprigs into several of the holes in each lemon, as shown.
Step 6) Coat the outside of your turkey with melted butter. Don’t use so much butter that it drips all over the pan (try to avoid that), but make sure at highest part of the turkey is covered. The butter will spread down the sides of the turkey as it roasts, sealing in flavor and giving the turkey skin a golden color.
Note: We are buttering our turkey skin instead of basting. It’s easier and prevents the meat from drying out. A buttered turkey will have a slightly darker color than a basted turkey (or a turkey in a bag), and the skin will be crispy. The end result is delicious!
Step 7) Showtime! Place your turkey in a preheated, 325 degree oven on the lowest rack possible. Your turkey needs to slowly roast until a meat thermometer poked into the thickest part of the turkey (but not against a bone) registers 165 degrees. Your turkey might have a little red timer attached (see photo) – this timer will pop out when your turkey is done. It’s STILL a good idea to check the temperature. Your turkey needs to reach 165 degrees in order to prevent food-borne illness!
How long will your turkey need to roast? That is the million dollar question! Every turkey and every oven is a little bit different. At 325 degrees, a 10 – 12 pound turkey will require approximately 3 hours of roasting time. Check your turkey after 2 1/2 hours, but don’t open the oven door before then!
Step 8) Let your roasted turkey rest on the countertop for 15 minutes before carving. A “tent” of aluminum foil (just a very loose covering of foil) can be used to prevent heat loss, but that’s not entirely necessary.
Enjoy your roasted turkey!
PS – Don’t wash that pan! In our next Crowded Earth Kitchen post, we’ll show you how to make gravy with the drippings on that turkey pan!
I originally made these Apple Cranberry Pies for my cousin’s wedding celebration. It was a magically homespun sort of wedding… think outdoors with perfect weather, wildflowers everywhere, mason jars and homemade pies. The bride looked like she stepped right out of a fairy tale. Sigh. I digress.
Back to the present… apple cranberry pie would be lovely for Thanksgiving! Pressed for time and leery of homemade crust? Feel free to pick up a box of rolled-up, ready to use pie crusts in the refrigerator case at your supermarket and skip right to Step 4. I won’t tell anyone.
Ingredients (serves 8)
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2/3 cup cold, unsalted butter (please use real butter for this!)
6 tablespoons vodka
4 tablespoons cold water
6 cups peeled, sliced apples (I used 4 Macintosh and 4 Cortland apples)
1/2 cup cranberries (frozen are fine)
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Step 1) Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, and allspice in a small mixing bowl. Add cold butter. Cut butter into flour mixture using a pastry cutter, until mixture resembles a bowl of pea-size crumbs.
Step 2) Sprinkle water and vodka over butter mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Don’t dump the liquid all in one place! Gently incorporate until a ball of dough forms. If you need to use your hands, that’s fine.
Step 3) Divide dough in half. Roll each half on a lightly floured countertop using a lightly floured rolling pin until the dough is approximately a 12 inch circle. It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, no matter what some cookbooks tell you (we’ll fix it later, don’t worry).
Step 4) Fold one of the dough circles over the rolling pin to transfer to a deep dish pie pan. Simply pat the dough lightly into place. If the dough tears, don’t panic, just patch it back together with your fingers. I won’t tell anyone, and seriously, nobody will notice if your crust isn’t picture perfect. Carry on…
Step 5) This is why we don’t care if the crust is a perfect circle… use a small knife to slice off all of the dough that hangs past the edges of your pan! We’ll make it look all fancy in a moment, but for now, we just want the dough even with the edges.
Step 6) Using a tiny cookie cutter or other mold, cut tiny shapes (approximately 1 square inch) from the dough scraps. Sprinkle with colored sugar if desired. Set shapes aside.
Step 7) Cover your pie crust with a towel, and make your filling… Combine your apple slices, cranberries, sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, and cardamom in a large bowl. Mix gently until ingredients are combined.
Step 8) Sprinkle the bottom of your pie crust with shredded coconut. This is entirely optional, and you really won’t taste the coconut. This steps helps to absorb excess liquid from the pie filling. If you don’t like coconut, try sprinkling the bottom of your pie crust with finely ground pecans.
Step 9) Pour your apple cranberry pie filling into your pie pan. Isn’t it pretty?
Step 10) Top your pie with the second circle of dough. Use your fingers to gently crimp the top and bottom crusts together. Don’t worry if the edge doesn’t look fancy like a cooking show pie crust… just say your pie crust is “rustic” and move on with your day. 😉
Step 11) Cut a few slits in your top crust for steam to escape. Brush beaten egg over the top pie crust, and stick on the little dough shapes you cut a few minutes ago. Just work with what you have, and try to space your little dough shapes evenly. There, look at that lovely pie crust! No perfect circle required. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.
Step 12) Bake your apple cranberry pie on a low rack in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!
*** November 16th – 30th Only ***
Early Holiday Gift Special!
Purchase a signed copy of How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé ($11.99) using the PayPal link above,
and receive a FREE set of European Bakery Notecards with your order!
Forget what your English professor told you – life stories are not written in college.
Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…
Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?
Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?
Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?
Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.
Includes over a dozen decadent new recipes from Crowded Earth Kitchen!
Cherry Harbor Series, Volume 1
Of all of the traditional dishes often served with Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing is my very favorite. This particular recipe is a crowd pleaser, because it contains traditional flavors such as sage and apple, without any weird ingredients. Not only is stuffing easy to prepare, it’s very economical. Have a few slices of day old bread or dinner rolls? Simply cut them into cubes and allow them to dry for a few days. Then, follow the recipe below and bring a yummy bowl of stuffing to your Thanksgiving feast!
10 cups dry bread cubes (I cut old dinner rolls into 1 inch cubes and left them to dry on baking sheets for about 3 days)
2 cups good quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup diced apple
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
Step 1) Sauté celery, raisins, and diced apple in butter until celery is translucent. Add sage and salt.
Step 2) Heat chicken stock in a small saucepan. It doesn’t need to boil, but should be hot.
Step 4) Be patient with this step… we’re going to gently add chicken stock to the bread cubes. Please don’t dump two cups of chicken stock into the mixing bowl at once – you’ll drown those poor bread cubes and end up with mush instead of stuffing! Instead, use a ladle to spoon a little bit of chicken stock over the bread cubes, toss lightly, and repeat.
Step 5) Transfer mixture to a large, greased casserole dish. If desired, place a few small pieces of butter on top of the stuffing mixture. Cover the mixture with a glass lid or aluminum foil. Don’t pack the stuffing into the casserole dish; just gently fill to the top without pressing down.
Step 6) Bake stuffing in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve while hot. Happy Thanksgiving!
Oh, don’t be a scrooge. I know it’s a bit early to use the word “holiday,” but if you’re going to make Holiday Spiced Apples for your own holiday buffet or offer festive jars as gifts, you need to plan ahead. This recipe is easy to prepare, but tastes best after the flavors marinate in the jar for at least two weeks.
8 quarts is a nice quantity for gift giving, and will allow you to save a jar or two for yourself! The same recipe can also be canned in 16 pint size jars, if you prefer a smaller size. Or cut the recipe in half for 4 quarts or 8 pints. If you don’t want to can the recipe at all, simply store your spiced apples in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They’ll last for several weeks.
40 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thick
4 cups cold water
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups “red hots” cinnamon candies
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
6 cups sugar
6 cups water
4 1/2 cups vinegar
Step 1) Dip peeled apple slices into a bowl containing 4 cups cold water and 1/2 cup lemon juice. This prevents browning. After dipping, set apple slices aside in a large bowl.
Step 2) Combine all remaining ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Stir often, so that the cinnamon candies don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Step 3) Reduce heat to simmer, and stir until candies are dissolved. Add apple slices.
Step 4) Simmer the apple slices in brine for 2 minutes. Ladle spiced apple slices into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by running a butter knife or a canning tool along the inside of each jar. Wipe the tops of the jars clean with a damp cloth, and top with lids and rims.
Step 5) Process quart jars in a boiling water canning bath for 15 minutes (pints only need 10 minutes). Do not open sealed jars for at least two weeks, to allow the flavors to blend. Enjoy your spiced apples!
If you’re more of a do-it-yourself’er than an online shopper, feel free to message me for a recipe. Making sweet pickled watermelon rind takes some time, but is worth it if you enjoy this delicacy as much as I do.
First, cut each strip of bacon in half, into two short strips.
Third, place bacon wrapped pieces on a baking sheet with shallow sides. I recommend lining the baking sheet with foil, for easy clean-up!
Fourth, bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until bacon is crispy. Watch carefully so that your bacon wrapped watermelon doesn’t burn!
I can practically guarantee that your party guests will not only find these appetizers delicious, but they’ll make a great conversation starter as well! Enjoy. 🙂