Back-to-School Snack Mix

WIN_20150826_095155Everyone understands that children will eat foods they have a hand in selecting. This is particularly important when children go back to school! Without a parent nearby to supervise, many snacks and meal items find their way into garbage bins.  The idea of food being thrown away bothers me a LOT, so I make a point of packing school lunches that I am confident my children will actually eat.

Back-to-School Snack Mix is perhaps the easiest, most failsafe item to pack in lunchboxes. By allowing children to select the ingredients (within reason) and fill individual snack bags themselves, you are increasing the odds that food will be consumed rather than tossed away.

WIN_20150826_093635Ingredients (Makes approximately 40 snack-size servings)

6 cups ready-to-eat breakfast cereal (Avoid sugar as the first ingredient!)

2 cups small crackers, pretzels, or pita chips

2 cups seeds or nuts (We used peanuts, but sunflower seeds work well as a nut-free WIN_20150826_095220alternative)

1 cup dried fruit

1 cup chocolate chips or tiny candies

Directions

Simply mix ingredients together in a large bowl, and ask your mini-chefs to fill snack size bags! Double check that each bag is sealed, and store in a large container (a shoebox works well).

Share your favorite bakery recipe, WIN a set of European bakery note cards!

 Cookies and cakes and pies, Oh My!

Whether your favorite baked goods are cookies or cakes, brownies or pies, breads, scones, or something else entirely, please consider sharing a recipe with the Global Recipe Project! THREE Crowded Earth Kitchen readers who submit a recipe (not published elsewhere, please) will have their name and recipe featured in the Global Recipe Project charity cookbook and will receive a FREE set of European Bakery Notecards! High gloss, professional notecards featuring Bavarian apple pastry, Belgian dipped cookies, Dutch stroopwafel, and a French bread basket can be yours!

Simply click on the Global Recipe Project for more details, or message me with questions. Thanks and good luck!

Contest ends September 15th!

Bavarian Apple Pastry

Belgian Dipped Cookies

Dutch Stroopwafel

French Bread Basket

Sneaky Tomato Balsamic Sauce

WIN_20150815_162216“Mom! Mmmooommm! I don’t LIKE ____” (Insert offending vegetable here)

If you have had your fill of this tiresome conversation, try Sneaky Tomato Balsamic Sauce. The small people in your life will – completely unknowingly – devour tomatoes, onions, zucchini, and yams while enjoying spaghetti, pizza, or whatever else you work this mild, sweet sauce into. Try it warm with French bread for dipping, or as a healthy accompaniment with soft pretzels. Sneaky Tomato Balsamic Sauce is versatile… use your imagination, and have fun!

Ingredients (Makes 6 pints)

20 cups chopped tomatoes

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini

1 cup chopped yam

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup dried oregano

2 tablespoons salt

Balsamic vinegar (2 tablespoons per pint)

WIN_20150815_155155Directions

Step 1) Combine tomatoes, onion, zucchini, and yam in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce to simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the volume of the mixture reduces by half.

Step 2) Stir in brown sugar, oregano, and salt.

Step 3) Place 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (at least 5% acidity… read the label!) in each of six sterilized, pint size jars. Fill jars with tomato mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Step 4) Run a knife or canning tool along the inside of each jar to eliminate air bubbles. Place lids and bands on each jar, and process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. Be sure to review safe canning guidelines!

Back by Popular Demand! How to Make Your Own Granola Bars

How to Save a Million Dollars a Year

How to Make Your Own Granola Bars!

Granola Bars

OK, making my own granola bars did not save me a million dollars last year.  It may have only been half a million dollars.  Or maybe just enough for an occasional, guilt free (mostly) massage at a fabulous spa.  But more to the point, store bought granola bars are expensive.  They don’t seem that way, as you’re pushing your cart down the cereal isle… $3 or so seems harmless enough, right?  The problem is, many of those $3 boxes only contain 5 bars.  Even that might seem reasonable if everyone was happy with one bar.  I, however, have been blessed with boys.  Growing boys.  Have you seen growing boys raid a kitchen after school?  It’s an awe inspiring, slightly terrifying sight to behold.

My darling boys could obliterate a whole shelf of granola bars in only the time it would take them to tear through all of that wasteful packaging.  If I continued buying granola bars from the supermarket, I was going to need to supplement my income by renting out my boys for farm labor.  They didn’t seem too keen on the idea, so Option B required me to create an easy, low cost granola bar that would pass muster with the kids.  Three different versions became fast favorites.  I hope you enjoy them!  Don’t forget to post your comments below!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part I:  Apple Cinnamon
I make a lot of jellies and jams (recipes coming soon!).  Occasionally, a batch of jelly or jam won’t turn out quite right – it’s either overcooked so that it’s too thick to spread, or undercooked so that it resembles syrup.  Because I’m too frugal to just throw them away, my “jars of mistakes” have been taking up shelf space, waiting to be put to good use.  Well, it’s Good Use Time!  You can use any apple jelly for this recipe, whether a store-bought version or a homemade version, even if it’s underwhelming on its own.
Combine dry goods and set aside:Dry Ingredients
3 cups of whole oats
1 cup of high fiber cereal
3/4 cup of diced, dried apples
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamonButter and Jelly
Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:
¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)
1 cup apple jelly

Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.  picture055

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage.

Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part II: Wild Blueberry

Two summers ago, my family spent a week on the Maine Coast (beautiful… highly recommend!).  Kitchen goofball that I am, I managed to squeeze my canning pot, canning utensils, and a case of half pint canning jars into the back of the family minivan.  I was on a quest to purvey enough of the fabled wild Maine blueberries to make 12 jars of jam, and I succeeded… sort of.

I overcooked the jam.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  There may have been a few words uttered that would, ah, make a Sunday School teacher blush.  But… Crowded Earth Kitchen wastes NOTHING!  Despite having no earthly idea how I would salvage those blueberries, I packed my 12 jars of crystallized blueberry “rock” into the van and brought them home.

You may use any blueberry jam for this recipe (I salvaged mine by soaking the jars in scalding hot water).  You might even get wild and crazy and try using another variety of jam.  If you create your own version, please let me know how it turns out!

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 1/2 cups of whole oats

1 cup of high fiber cereal

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

1 cup blueberry jam

Blueberry Bars Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Version III: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip 

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 cups of whole oats

¾ cup of high fiber cereal (any variety will suffice)

1 cup of chopped pretzels (if you like salt) or crispie rice cereal (if you don’t)

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

½ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup honey (or maple syrup as a vegan substitute)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars  Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.

Then, press mini chocolate chips into the top of the granola bars (I used two tablespoons; use more if you don’t mind the sugar, or don’t use them at all). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

Pickled Mini Tomatoes

WIN_20150812_110518If you have a bumper crop of miniature tomatoes such as cherry tomatoes or pear tomatoes, give this recipe a whirl. Salty, tangy, and laced with rosemary, this recipe is delicious served with French bread or as a Bloody Mary garnish. Pretty jars of Pickled Mini Tomatoes make great gifts, too!

WIN_20150812_105501Ingredients (Makes 3 pints)

3 cups assorted cherry tomatoes and/or pear tomatoes (any color)

3 small cucumbers, about 3-4 inches long, sliced thin

4 cloves garlic, sliced thin

WIN_20150812_1055072 cups white vinegar

2/3 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

Directions

Step 1) Combine tomatoes, cucumbers, and garlic in a large bowl. Divide evenly between three sterilized, pint size jars.

Step 2) Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, rosemary, and peppercorns in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and boil gently for 10 minutes.

WIN_20150812_110046Step 3) Using a wide mouth funnel, pour brine into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Run a knife or canning tool along the inside of each jar to remove air bubbles. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Be sure to review Crowded Earth Kitchen’s safe canning guidelines!

Not interested in canning? No problem! Simply place your tomato mixture in any jar or container appropriate for the refrigerator. Pour brine over tomatoes and refrigerate for at least a week! As long as you keep the tomatoes covered with brine, they will last a month in the refrigerator.

Spiced Peaches

WIN_20150811_143138In the depths of winter, a warmed jar of Spiced Peaches can be just the thing to infuse a little brightness into your day! I enjoy these peaches for breakfast with oatmeal, or for an evening dessert baked into a cobbler. Peaches are in season NOW, so let’s get started!

Be sure to review Crowded Earth Kitchen’s safe canning guidelines before sealing your jars!

WIN_20150811_130542Ingredients (Makes 6 quart jars)

10 pounds of ripe freestone peaches

2 cups sugar

2 star anise, broken

6 cardamom pods, crushed

WIN_20150811_1306301 vanilla bean, cut into 1 inch pieces and cut open lengthwise

1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

12 cups water

Directions

Step 1) Peel your peaches. The easiest way WIN_20150811_130727to peel ripe peaches is to place them in a pot of boiling water for 45 seconds, then immediately transfer the peaches to a large bowl full of cold water and ice. Let cool for a few seconds, and the peels will slide right off. This only works when peaches are ripe, so if your peaches are hard (underripe), be patient and wait another day or two!

WIN_20150811_130010Step 2) Combine 12 cups water, sugar, lemon juice, and spices in a large stockpot. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.

Step 3) While mixture comes to a boil, slice peaches. I cut the peaches in quarters, but you can use larger or smaller slices if you wish. Add sliced peaches to the boiling sugar water and boil gently for 5 minutes.

WIN_20150811_131300Step 4) Transfer the peaches to sterilized, quart size jars. Fill jars with the sugar water, leaving at least 1/2 inch of headspace. Use a knife or canning tool to slide around the inside of each jar, removing air bubbles. Top each jar with lids and bands, and place jars in boiling water bath. Process for 20 minutes.

Zucchini Chips

WIN_20150809_181951When zucchini chips are this easy to make, low in fat, high in fiber, and taste so amazing, why would anyone buy bagged potato chips? I have no idea! With zucchini in full season, now is the perfect time to try zucchini chips. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150808_135851 - CopyIngredients (Makes 1 large bowl)

1 large or 2-3 small zucchini

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt or your favorite salt blend (I like Penzey’s “Mitchell Street Steak Seasoning”)

WIN_20150808_135930 - CopyDirections

Step 1) Wash zucchini and slice into 1/8 inch thick slices. You can use a waffle-edged slicer if you have one (see photo), or just slice with a knife.

Step 2) Place zucchini slices on food dehydrator trays. If you don’t have a food WIN_20150808_140900 - Copydehydrator, consider investing in one! They start at around $20, and offer a GREAT way of preserving summer fruits and vegetables (especially if your freezer space is limited)!

Step 3) Use a pastry brush or napkin to lightly coat zucchini slices with coconut oil (or olive oil). Sprinkle zucchini slices with salt, and dehydrate for 12 hours or until crispy. Store in an airtight container.