Cran-Blueberry Cobbler

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Fresh Cranberries

Cranberries and blueberries offer up a whole lot of nutrition in a tiny, colorful package!  Both are high in fiber, high in Vitamin C, and pretty low in calories (around 50 and 80 calories per cup, respectively).  This simple cobbler makes cranberries and blueberries look all fancy schmancy using ramekin dishes and a drop biscuit topping.  What this recipe doesn’t offer is a lot of added sugar – only half a tablespoon her serving.  If you’re feeling rebellious, go ahead and make this dessert for breakfast.  I won’t tell.

picture455Ingredients (makes 6 dessert servings)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup water

2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

For the biscuit topping:

1/2 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

Directions

picture456Step 1) Stir together 2 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and water in a medium saucepan until sugar and starch are dissolved.

Step 2) Add blueberries and cranberries.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and bubbly.

Step 3) Carefully ladle fruit mixture into greased ramekin dishes.  Alternatively, you could use one large pie dish.

Step 4) Combine flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and baking powder in a small bowl.  “Cut picture457in” butter using a pastry cutter or two forks.  When you are finished, the butter should be in very tiny pieces, evenly distributed through the flour mixture.

Step 5) Add almond extract, lightly beaten egg, and milk to the flour and butter mixture.  Stir until just combined.

Step 6) Drop approximately 1 tablespoonful of biscuit mixture on top of each ramekin.

Step 7) Bake ramekins in preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  I find it convenient to place all 6 ramekins in a 9×13 cake pan, for easy insertion and removal from oven.

Step 8) Let cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!

Extreme Peanut Butter Cookies

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Why make plain old peanut butter cookies when you could make Extreme Peanut Butter Cookies?  I mean, if you’re going to indulge in peanut butter as a comfort food, then INDULGE!  These cookies are admittedly calorie dense, but offer enough protein that they make a respectable after school snack for hungry little ones.

picture1022Ingredients (makes about 60 cookies)

1/2 cup real butter, softened

1/2 cup real peanut butter (nothing hydrogenated!)

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/4 cups white flour

2 cups honey roasted peanuts

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

Step 1) Mix together butter, peanut butter, and sugars.  Add egg, milk, and almond extract.  Stir until well combined.

Step 2) Add flours, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir by hand until combined; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Add peanuts and chocolate chips.

Step 4) Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.  Leave at least two inches between cookies.

Step 5) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Let cool before enjoying – peanuts will be very hot!

Chocolate Truffles

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Pure decadence. At risk of sounding cliché, “pure decadence” is really the only way to describe homemade chocolate truffles. This recipe is one of my holiday favorites for several reasons. First, it falls into the category of “super easy but looks complicated” – bringing a plate of these to your next party will make you look like a kitchen rock star with minimal effort. Second, these truffles can be made in advance, a nice bonus during this busy time of year. Third, this recipe can be divided to create an impressive assortment flavors without extra effort. Fourth, chocolate truffles make great gifts… ‘tis the season! What are you waiting for?

picture748Ingredients (makes 60 truffles)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened (not melted)
3 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 cups chopped dark chocolate (or dark chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate (or semisweet chocolate chips)
Two flavor additives: I’m using 1 tablespoon of Irish Cream Liquor for half of my truffles, and 1 teaspoon coconut extract for the other half of my truffles.
Two coatings: I’m using cocoa powder for my Irish Cream truffles, and dried coconut shavings for my coconut truffles.
Other ideas: 1 tablespoon of Orange Liquor + cocoa powder coating, 1 teaspoon peppermint extract + hot chocolate powder coating, 1 tablespoon Coffee Liquor + ground hazelnut coating, etc.

Directions
Step 1) Beat cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar with an electric mixer until well combined.
Step 2) Microwave dark chocolate and semisweet chocolate for a few seconds at a time, stirring frequently, until chocolate is just melted. Watch carefully, so chocolate doesn’t burn! Let cool slightly.
picture749Step 3) Add chocolate (melted but not hot) to cream cheese mixture and stir until well combined. Divide mixture in half.
Step 4) Stir Irish Cream liquor into one half of the mixture. Stir coconut extract into the other half of the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Step 5) Remove truffle mixtures from refrigerator and roll into bite size balls. Mixture should be a little bit sticky, but if it’s too messy to work with, simply refrigerate (or freeze) for another 30 minutes.
Step 6) Roll Irish Cream truffles in cocoa powder. Roll coconut truffles in coconut shavings. You may need to “press” coconut shavings into the truffles a bit, to help them stick.
That’s all – so easy! Store covered in refrigerator until serving or giving as gifts.

Brandied Pears

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Pears.  Brandy.  Pears preserved in brandy, in you very own kitchen.  Fa la la la la, la la la la.

If this isn’t just about the perfect homemade holiday gift, I don’t know what is.  Brandied pears are simple and quick – perfect for the busy holiday season.  A bottle of lower shelf brandy will set you back $15 or so, but divided among 8 gift jars, that’s less than $2 per jar.  You may even have a bit left over.  I’m sure you’ll find a way to use it up, somehow.

picture002 (2)Ingredients (makes 8 pint jars)

6 pounds of firm pears

4 cups of brandy

8 teaspoons lemon juice

2 cups of sugar

4 cups of water

Directions

Step 1) Combine sugar and water in a saucepan.  Simmer over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Step 2) Peel and core pears.  Slice as desired.  I prefer 1/2 inch thick slices, as shown in the jars above.  If you prefer to leave your pears quartered or even halved, that’s fine.

Step 3) Pack pears into sterilized, pint size canning jars.  Pack the jars as tightly as you can without mashing the pears!

Step 4) Add 1/2 cup of brandy and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to each jar.

Step 5) Finish filling each jar with your sugar and water mixture, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.

Step 6) Poke a spoon or other tool into the bottom of each jar to remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims clean, and top with lids and bands.

Step 7) Process jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, and check seals before giving as gifts!

These brandied pears will taste best if allowed to sit in their sealed jars for a month or so before opening.  Serve them over ice cream, in crepes, or right out of the jar as part of a festive buffet.  Happy Holidays!

Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

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Want Your Peppermint Pinwheels to Sparkle? Sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies before baking!

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re kicking off December with some holiday fun!  These bite size cookies are deliciously minty, pretty, and simple – perfect for that upcoming office party or cookie exchange.

Do you love how your kitchen smells when cookies are baking?  Savor it a little bit longer by making an extra batch to drop off at a local soup kitchen or shelter.  Share the love.  😉

Ingredients (makes about 60 cookies)

1 cup (two sticks) butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/4 cups flour

red and green food coloring

Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and sugar until very well blended.  Add egg and peppermint extract; blend until well combined.

Step 2) Add flour and baking soda; mix well in a big bowl with a wooden spoon.

WIN_20141025_173620Step 3) Divide dough in half, using two bowls.  Add three drops of red food coloring to one bowl, and three drops of green food coloring to the other bowl.  Using a clean spoon for each bowl, mix until food coloring is evenly distributed.

Step 4) Use the palms of your hands to roll half of the red dough into a long rope about as thick as your index finger.  Repeat with half of the green dough, and Set the ropes next to each other so that they are touching.  Gently twist the ropes together, as shown.

Step 5) Repeat with the other half of the red and green dough, so that you have two long, twisted ropes.  Wrap each rope separately in wax paper and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.  [Note: You can also freeze the ropes at this point, and remove from the freezer at a later date for slicing and baking!]

WIN_20141025_202544Step 6) Remove the ropes – one at a time – from the refrigerator.  Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, and place at least one inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8 – 9 minutes, until bottoms are just beginning to turn golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

These cookies freeze well, making this  great recipe to try in early December!  Happy Holidays!