Kids in the Kitchen: Mixed-Up Cereal Bars

WIN_20160116_123407Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we don’t buy bright colored, sugary cereal. The problem is that Santa Claus is a mischievous guy, and leaves Mom-Disapproved cereals under the Christmas tree. The kiddos LOVE this, and for a few weeks they are able to indulge in occasional bowls of silly breakfast cereals. By late winter, this Mom’s patience with Santa has worn thin, and it’s time to get rid of the neon colored breakfast food.

This recipe gives the pint size cooks in your kitchen a fun opportunity to an after school snack out of those bits and specks of breakfast cereal lurking in your pantry. These cereal bars are most fun when you let the kids mix cereals. Why should Rice Crispies get to have all of the fun?

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160116_121312Ingredients (Makes 12 bars)

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups mini marshmallows

4 cups mixed-up cereal (at least two varieties)

Directions

WIN_20160116_122914Step 1) Melt butter and marshmallows together in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Remove saucepan from heat and stir in mixed-up cereal.

Step 3) Transfer mixture to a greased pie dish. Using wet hands, press the mixture firmly into the pie dish. Allow mixture to cool and firm up on the counter.

Step 4) Cut into squares or wedges using a wet knife, OR place the pie dish in the freezer for about 30 minutes and cut into squares while partially frozen.

If you plan to pack these Mixed-Up Cereal Bars in school lunches, wrap them individually in waxed paper.

Au Gratin Potatoes

WIN_20160115_204815In chilly weather, a well made bowl of warm and cheesy Au Gratin Potatoes is just the thing to warm up your insides! This recipe gives the potatoes a head start in the microwave, allowing your to indulge your craving for cheesy potatoes even faster. Bon Appetit!

Ingredients (Makes 2 side dish servings)

2 large potatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup milk

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

WIN_20160115_194355Directions

Step 1) Microwave potatoes in water for 5 minutes or until just barely parcooked. If potatoes are very cold, they will require an additional minute or two in the microwave.

Step 2) Combine butter, shredded cheddar cheese, and milk in a saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until cheese is melted and a smooth sauce forms.

Step 3) Arrange half of the potatoes in a small, greased casserole dish. Top with half of the cheese sauce. Layer on the remaining potato slices, and top with the remaining cheese sauce.

Step 4) Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and cover the casserole dish with foil. Bake Au Gratin Potatoes in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 5) Remove casserole dish from oven and remove foil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and finish baking, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Enjoy your Au Gratin Potatoes!

Weeknight Meatloaf

WIN_20160118_180647

Simple, delicious comfort food – would you expect anything less from well made meatloaf? I make a double batch to slice and freeze for individual workday lunches. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 egg

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

WIN_20160117_141628Directions

Step 1) Combine tomato paste, vinegar, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper to make a glaze. Set aside.

Step 2) Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly (use your hands). Shape the meat mixture into a rectangular shape and place in a bread pan.

Step 3) Bake the meatloaf in the pan, uncovered, for 45 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Remove pan from oven and drain fat by tipping the pan carefully over a disposable container placed in the sink (to prevent dangerously hot spills).

Step 4) Remove meatloaf from the bread pan and place on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Spread the glaze on top of the meatloaf. Return meatloaf to the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake meatloaf for an additional 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Tip: Sometimes I bake this meatloaf and place it in the freezer, whole, for about 2 hours. When partially frozen, the meatloaf can be sliced into perfect “magazine photo” slices. I then prepare workday lunches by placing two nice looking slices per freezer container, along with a serving of cooked vegetables.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

WIN_20160116_102115Carrot Cake Pancakes make a lovely weekend breakfast, and are a great way to add extra fruits and vegetables to an otherwise carbohydrate-based meal. The flavor of these pancakes is subtle, which children seem to prefer. If you’d like to ramp up the flavor a bit, double the quantity of cinnamon and cloves.

This recipe makes a rather large batch of pancakes, perfect for freezing. I freeze a few small pancakes along with additional pineapple in single serving containers for quick weekday breakfasts. Carrot Cake Pancakes reheat easily on a baking pan in the oven (approximately 5 minutes at 350 degrees), and can also be microwaved.

WIN_20160116_095823Ingredients (Makes about 24 pancakes – they freeze well!)

1 cup finely grated carrot

2 eggs

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup oil

1/2 cup small pineapple chunks

WIN_20160116_101509Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients except for pineapple. Blend well.

Step 2) Ladle 1/4 cup portions of batter onto a well greased skillet or griddle. Place a few small pineapple chunks onto each pancake, and cook over medium heat for approximately 2 minutes per side.

Step 3) Be sure to grease the skillet or griddle in between each batch of pancakes, because the pineapple has a tendency to stick.

Step 4) Serve with butter and additional pineapple. For an added layer of flavor, serve with Carrot Cake Jam. Enjoy your Carrot Cake Pancakes!

Homemade Hot Fudge

WIN_20160114_191200Homemade Hot Fudge takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and is extravagantly delicious. To enjoy this treat, don’t be afraid to think beyond classic hot fudge sundaes. Homemade Hot Fudge is also a fun dipping sauce for fresh strawberries, frozen banana chunks, biscotti, and vanilla wafers. Be creative and enjoy!

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160114_184934Ingredients (Makes about 3 cups)

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup real butter (not margarine)

2/3 cup chocolate chips

12 ounce can of evaporated milk

WIN_20160114_185129

After one minute

Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to combine.

Step 2) Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir constantly for 8 minutes.

WIN_20160114_190234

After eight minutes

Step 3) Allow to cool before serving. Hot fudge is delicious when slightly warm, but should not be literally “hot.”

Store leftover hot fudge in a glass jar (such as a pint size mason jar) in the refrigerator. Warm in a microwave for a few seconds and stir carefully before serving.

Chocolate Orange Cremes

WIN_20160219_201527Candy making doesn’t need to be complicated. Today’s recipe is super easy! You don’t need any special equipment – no candy thermometers, tempering surfaces, molds, tubes, brushes… none of that. If you have a pot and a mini muffin tin, you have all of the equipment you need to get started.

WIN_20160219_164032If you want – but this is entirely optional – you could use an inexpensive plastic candy mold instead of (or in addition to) a mini muffin tin. The molds shown here were purchased for about $2 each at a local craft store. I purchased them simply to test them alongside a mini muffin tin, and I can confirm – the mini muffin tin works just as well. If anything, the muffin tin is a bit easier to work with, because the larger size is easier to coat evenly with chocolate.

I spent about an hour making the plate of Chocolate Orange Cremes shown above. They are delicious – it was time well spent!

WIN_20160219_164101Ingredients (Makes about 30 candies)

1/2 pound of bulk chocolate coating (milk or dark, such as Ambrosia brand) -AND/OR- Wilton brand Candy Melts (any color)

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

WIN_20160214_162404Directions

Step 1) Melt chocolate. You can microwave chocolate coating to melt, just make sure to stop the microwave every 30 seconds to stir. I melted my milk chocolate coating in a double boiler, and melted a small quantity of orange-colored Wilton Candy Melts (to drizzle over candies) in the microwave. It really doesn’t matter how you melt your chocolate, just stir frequently and don’t burn it.

WIN_20160219_171757Step 2) Fill mini muffin tins or candy molds about 1/3 full with melted chocolate, and use a small spoon (a baby spoon works well) to push the chocolate up the sides of the tin/mold to coat the surfaces. Don’t worry, this is easy.

Step 3) Place coated tins/molds in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Step 4) While tins are cooling, beat together cream cheese and orange juice concentrate with an electric mixer. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until smooth.

WIN_20160219_181605Step 5) Remove tins from the refrigerator. Use a small spoon to fill each chocolate lined tin about 3/4 full with orange creme filling. Important – do not spread the orange creme filling right up to the top of the mold, especially along the edges! Just fill the molds 3/4 full. Return the tin/mold to the refrigerator for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Step 6) Remove tins from the refrigerator and spoon melted chocolate evenly over the top of the filling. It’s important to form a “chocolate seal” between the top and the side edges.

Step 7) Return filled molds to the refrigerator until chocolate is firm and looks a bit cloudy. To remove cooled Chocolate Orange Cremes from their molds/tins, simply turn the molds upside down and wiggle the candies a bit. They’ll pop right out!

WIN_20160219_195738Step 8) If desired, melt a small quantity (about 1/4 cup) of candy melts in an accent color (I used orange). Pour melted chocolate into a small zip-lock bag and cut a very small corner off of the bag. Use this homemade pastry bag to decorate your Chocolate Orange Cremes!

Enjoy!

Ahi Tuna Salad

WIN_20160114_205827My local market sells small, individually sealed, frozen Ahi tuna steaks for a very reasonable price. Ahi tuna (Yellowfin tuna) is high in protein, low in fat, and packed full of B vitamins. While I generally prefer the sustainability and reliably lower mercury levels of small fish such as sardines, the delectable flavor of Ahi tuna is an indulgence I’m not ready to part with entirely. This recipe offers an easy way to enjoy this delicious fish.

A note about slicing tuna for pan searing: If you enjoy tuna a bit pink in the center, slice your tuna steak 1/3 inch thick and sear quickly. I prefer tuna cooked through, and slice my steak into 1/4 inch thick pieces. It’s up to you.

WIN_20160114_205407Ingredients (per person)

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

3 ounce frozen Ahi tuna steak, sliced thin

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons cooked, shelled edamame (soybeans)

1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon chili vinegar

colorful pepper slices to garnish

WIN_20160114_203855Directions

Step 1) Arrange torn lettuce on a serving plate. Sprinkle with cooked, shelled edamame.

Step 2) In a small bowl, whisk together grated ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and chili vinegar to make a simple vinaigrette. Set aside.

Step 3) Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Make sure bottom of skillet is evenly coated with oil. Add Ahi tuna slices and sear 15 – 30 seconds on each side (if you like the middle pink) or up to 1 minute on each side (if you like the tuna cooked through).

Step 4) Arrange tuna slices over lettuce and edamame. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with pepper slices.

Enjoy your Ahi Tuna Salad!