Jelly Bean Brittle

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Hop. Hop. Hippidy Hop. That bunny is heading our way, and wouldn’t it be nice if he arrived with a basket of homemade Easter candy? Jelly Bean Brittle is awesome for so many reasons… it’s super easy (Can you boil water? That’s about the only skill you need!), doesn’t require any expensive ingredients, and unlike peanut brittle, is completely free of common allergens. This recipe makes a great big pan (about 2 1/2 pounds’ worth) – perfect for an office or a classroom!

The only special item you will need is a candy thermometer. Now, don’t panic – a candy thermometer looks like any other thermometer, and just clips right onto your pot. All you need to do is READ it, and if you are reading this blog post, you’ve got that skill locked. Here is a link to the simple candy thermometer that I use:

Taylor Classic Line Glass Candy and Deep Fry Thermometer

It’s less than $6, and if you order it today you’ll be able to make Jelly Bean Brittle before Easter. You’re welcome. Let’s get started!

WIN_20150329_131938Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 pounds)

1 pound bag of mini jelly beans

2 cups sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup water

WIN_20150329_1329121/4 cup butter (not margarine)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (no lumps!)

Directions

Step 1) Clip your candy thermometer to the side of a big, old pot. The tip of the thermometer should not be touching the WIN_20150329_132803bottom of the pot. Add sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.

Step 2) Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce heat slightly (low-medium) and allow to continue boiling until the temperature gauge on your candy thermometer reaches the line WIN_20150329_134459labeled “Hard Crack” or 295 degrees. Be patient – this will take 20 – 30 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.

Step 3) While your mixture boils, prepare your pan. First, cover your largest baking pan with aluminum foil; don’t forget to cover the sides. Next, grease the aluminum foil with the wrapper from a stick of butter. Then, evenly distribute jelly beans on the WIN_20150329_134509foil.

Step 4) When your boiling mixture reaches the Hard Crack stage, turn off the heat and sprinkle baking soda into the pot. STIR QUICKLY! A chemical reaction will take place, causing the boiling mixture to foam and froth. This is normal – and exciting!

Step 5) After stirring, pour mixture over jelly WIN_20150329_134600beans. Working quickly, spread mixture evenly over the entire pan.

Step 6) After about 10 minutes, your jelly bean brittle will be ready to break apart into bite size pieces. Store in an airtight container to keep nice and fresh!

PS – About that pot… just add a drop of dish soap and fill with BOILING water. It’ll come clean in seconds.  😉

Sneaky Leprechaun Milkshake

This vintage post was popular the first time around, and Crowded Earth Kitchen has several hundred new readers (Welcome!) since last St. Patrick’s Day, so I’m sharing this again.  Enjoy!

picture833“Mom?  Can we just stop at the drive-thru and get a (green) shake?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“Still No.”

“Pleeaassee?  I’ll do laundry.”

I’ll admit, this is where the devil on my shoulder told me that I would be a fool not to cave in just this once, and so what if the child glows in the dark for the next two weeks.  The fact is, the children in my house generate approximately 817 loads of laundry every week, and the offer of complaint-free laundry labor was enticing (that they will end up helping anyway, albeit under duress, is beside the point).  Then I had an idea…

“Still no.  But if you help with laundry cheerfully, I’ll make you a (green) shake.”

“Deal.”

Here’s what I came up with.  The kids LOVED it!  Peppermint extract is strong… a little bit can make, well, just about anything taste like peppermint.  😉  Each serving (approximately 10 ounces) contains 113 calories, 4 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 5 grams of protein.  Each serving also packs an impressive 60% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin A, and 20% of the RDA for calcium.  Compare that to the drive-thru green shake… I dare you.

picture822Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

1 cup frozen chopped spinach (Ha!  Ha ha ha!)

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 cup “real” vanilla ice cream, without any weird ingredients (I found a supermarket brand that was made from milk, cream, sugar, egg yolk, natural vanilla extract, and nothing else)

1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (Very strong!  You may even want to try a bit less than 1 teaspoon.)

Dark chocolate shavings (Optional)  

picture823Directions

Step 1) Add spinach and about half of the skim milk to a blender.  Pulse for a few seconds to thoroughly chop spinach into tiny “peppermint” size pieces.

Step 2) Add remaining milk to blender and blend for a minute or a longer until the mixture is very creamy (almost butter-like) and increases in volume.  The photo, left, shows only spinach and milk – it really does get creamy!

Step 3) Add peppermint extract and ice cream to blender.  For best results, add ice cream in several tiny scoops rather than one large scoop.  Blend until all ingredients are combined.

Step 4) Mixture will be tasty now, but thin.  For best results, pour shake mixture into a shallow container and place in the back of your freezer for one hour.  After an hour, scoop shake mixture into serving glasses (I used half pint jelly jars).  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings, if desired.

Step 5) Try not to laugh as your loved ones unwittingly eat their spinach.  🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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!

 

High Protein Peanut Butter Chocolate “Play-Doh”

pb-choc-protein-play-doh

Who says you can’t play with your food?

We’re bringing the whole family into the spirit of “New Year, New You!” by making a super healthy, kid-friendly, high protein snack. This is real food, friends – but don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. Let the kiddos think they’re eating dessert instead of the nutritional equivalent of an expensive protein bar. Win! Win! Continue reading

Kids in the Kitchen: Build a Gingerbread Train!

So, the kiddos are home from school on Christmas vacation, and you are smiling as you assure the world that everyone is having a jolly good time. I get it. But you aren’t fooling me. The little darlings are starting to argue with each other, aren’t they? And your nerves are beginning to fray, aren’t they? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt! Continue reading

Kids in the Kitchen: Pueblo Corn Cakes

WIN_20160314_190113Recently, my neighborhood public library held a 10 cent book sale. 10 cents per book! I picked out as many children’s books as I could carry, to keep the kiddos busy at home. Among the books I selected was this Pueblo Indian Cookbook: Pueblo Indian Cookbook: Recipes from the Pueblos of the American Southwest.

When one of the kiddos came to me, cookbook in hand, and asked what we could make today, I searched for something simple that we could create with ingredients already in the house. We made a variation of Corn Griddle Cakes, adjusting the liquids slightly to account for the fact that we used frozen corn kernels. The kitchen apprentices here at Crowded Earth Kitchen were quite pleased with the fruits of their labor, and enjoyed these Pueblo Corn Cakes with maple syrup. They think you’ll enjoy them, as well!

WIN_20160314_184940Ingredients (Makes about 16 Pueblo Corn Cakes, about 3″ in diameter) 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

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.

Kids in the Kitchen: Cake Mix Cookies

WIN_20151228_164903These are not fancy heirloom cookies – if you are looking for something to enter in the State Fair, may I gently suggest something else? No, these are “the kiddos are home from school and it’s too cold to send them outside” cookies! With only four ingredients, even the most pint-size of kitchen helpers can make their own batch. Sure, they might spill a few chocolate chips on the floor… but that’s easier to deal with than crayon drawings on the bathroom wall or trapeze fun with the living room drapes. So, go gather up your kitchen help and lets get started!

WIN_20151228_160640Ingredients (Makes about 36 cookies)

1 box of cake mix, any flavor (we used Devils Food)

2 eggs

1/2 cup of vegetable oil

1 cup of baking chips, any flavor (we used peanut butter chips)

WIN_20151228_161711Directions

Step 1) Mix together all ingredients. The smaller the kitchen helper, the larger the bowl – big bowls help to prevent spills. Just make sure a grown-up holds onto the bowl, so the whole thing doesn’t go sailing across your kitchen. I’ve, ah, seen that happen before, and it isn’t pretty!

Step 2) Drop cookie dough in rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Allow cookies to cool right on the pan. So easy!

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag!

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Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, the kiddos are home all week for their holiday break. This vintage post offers up a fun and easy activity to keep your little ones safe from boredom until they return to school!

Making homemade ice cream is a lovely pastime. Just pull out that antique wooden, hand cranked ice cream maker and… Oh Wait… you don’t happen to have one of those? Well, never fear! A pair of zip lock plastic bags will work just fine.

Plastic bags?

Yes.

Don’t believe me? Give it a try! Just make sure to post a comment about your fabulous ice cream, OK?  🙂

WIN_20150622_145042Ingredients and Supplies (Makes 2 servings)

2/3 cup whole milk

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon flavor extract (vanilla, peppermint, etc.)

WIN_20150622_1503134 cups ice

1 cup coarse salt

2 “zip lock” sandwich bags

2 “zip lock” gallon size freezer bags

Directions

WIN_20150622_150328Step 1) Add 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup cream, and 1/2 teaspoon flavor extract to each sandwich bag. Gently squeeze out the air and carefully seal each bag.

Step 2) Add 2 cups ice and 1/2 cup coarse salt to each gallon size bag. Add a sandwich bag from step 1 to each gallon size bag. Carefully seal the gallon size bag.

WIN_20150622_150512Step 3) Place the gallon bag on a small towel. Fold the towel over the bag to protect your hands from the cold (ice+salt gets REALLY cold), and gently rock the towel back and forth on a flat surface for 5 minutes. Flip the bag over and gently rock for another few minutes, or until the contents of the sandwich bag are completely frozen.

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Chocolate Ice Cream! Use 1 teaspoon of chocolate syrup instead of a flavor extract.

Step 4) Remove sandwich bag from gallon size bag and carefully wipe away any salt from zip lock opening. Carefully open bag and transfer ice cream to a serving bowl. Enjoy immediately!

Cinnamon Sandwich Cremes

Don’t forget to enter the 12 Days of Cookies FREE GIVEAWAY DRAWING!

cinnamon cookiesCelebrate your inner child with these Cinnamon Sandwich Cremes. Lightly spiced cookie rounds held together with creamy frosting… well, that’s enough to make me feel like I’m five years old again! These cookies freeze well, if you have the willpower to save them.

WIN_20151102_164629Ingredients (makes about 80 small cookie rounds, for 40 Cinnamon Sandwich Cremes)

1 cup real butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 generous tablespoons cinnamon

For the icing:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

WIN_20151116_215045Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Mix by hand; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Chill dough for at least one hour before rolling 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut dough into 2 inch circles, and carefully transfer to greased baking sheets.

Step 4) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Step 5) While cookies are cooling, blend together butter, powdered sugar, ground cloves, and milk to make icing. Spoon 1/4 cup of icing into a plastic sandwich bag, and snip a tiny corner from the bag to make a homemade pastry bag. You should be able to easily squeeze icing from the bag and onto the bottoms of half of the cookie circles. Top with a second cookie circle; bottoms of cookies should be on the inside, by the frosting. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more milk. If the icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar.

VARIATIONS:

  1. For Cinnamon Vanilla Sandwich Cremes, omit ground cloves from icing. Instead, scrape the seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean into the icing. Delicious!
  2. For Cinnamon Ice Cream Sandwiches, omit the icing altogether. Instead, spread 1 tablespoon of cinnamon flavored ice cream in between each pair of cookies. Freeze immediately. Make sure ice cream sandwiches are quite firm before serving.

Halloween Apple Treats

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A reasonably healthy Halloween treat… imagine! Children (and grown-ups) will love these easy-to-make apple treats. If you are still pondering whether or not to invest in a food dehydrator, what are you waiting for? You’ll recoup the cost after just a few batches of economical, homemade dried fruit. Here’s a link to a dehydrator that costs only $35 with free shipping! You’re welcome.

Ronco FD1005WHGEN 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

WIN_20150918_144751Ingredients (Makes about 1 quart of dried fruit)

12 medium size apples (Cortland apples work well)

1 cup cold water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

WIN_20150918_1455091 teaspoon of orange colored sugar (or use orange Jello)

1/4 teaspoon of black colored sugar

Directions

Step 1) Peel and core apples. Slice thin (no thicker than 1/4 inch).

WIN_20150918_145454Step 2) As you slice each apple, place the slices in a bowl with the cold water and lemon juice. Simply submerge the apple slices to prevent browning.

Step 3) Arrange apple slices on food dehydrator trays. It’s OK if the apple slices touch each other just a bit, but they should be in a single layer (not overlapping).

Step 4) Sprinkle the apple slices LIGHTLY with colored sugar. Don’t get carried away! Almost immediately, the color will begin to spread out. The color will continue to deepen as the apple slices dry.

Step 4) Plug in your food dehydrator and allow apples to dry for 12 hours (they may require a bit longer if your apple slices are thick). Apple slices will snap in half easily when they are completely dry.

Step 5) Store in zip-lock snack bags or other airtight container. Apple slices that are completely dry and stored in an airtight container will stay fresh for many months. Good luck keeping them around that long… here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, my little Half-Pint ferrets out dried apple slices from all of my hiding places and devours them on the sly! It’s hard to be annoyed when children delight in such a healthy treat.  🙂

Enjoy!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Tarts

WIN_20150831_184305Last month we shared a quick and easy recipe for Apple Pecan Tarts, and readers loved them. So did Half Pint! While snacking on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Half Pint declared, “I have a great idea! How about if we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but pies instead?”

OK. Here we go. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20150827_093203Ingredients (Makes 32 mini tarts)

1 package of roll-out refrigerated pie crust

1/2 cup of crushed peanuts

1 cup of creamy peanut butter

1 cup of grape jelly

 WIN_20150827_093602Directions

Step 1) Open the package of roll-out refrigerated pie crusts (there are two crusts per package). Instead of rolling them out, squish each crust into a big ball of dough. How fun!

WIN_20150827_093857Step 2) Place a small ball of pie crust dough, about the size of a golf ball, in each well of a mini muffin pan. Push the dough down in the center so that it flattens on the bottom and up the sides of the well. You can use a tart press (shown), a medicine cup, or just your fingers for this.

The Pampered Chef Mini Tart Shaper 1590

Wilton Recipe Right 24 Cup Mini Muffin Pan

Step 3) Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of crushed peanuts inside of each tart crust. Gently spoon peanut butter and jelly into each tart crust, leaving 1/4 inch of empty space at the top of each tart.

WIN_20150831_181239Step 4) Bake tarts in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Step 5) Using a butter knife and/or a teaspoon (not your fingers!), remove the tarts from the mini muffin pan while they are still warm. Cool on a wire rack. These tarts freeze well for packing in school lunches!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Sisters

I Am From

I am from strong women

A heritage quilt stitched with love and determination

I am more durable than decorative

More educated than wise

Slowly becoming embroidered.

I am from Alvilda

A gritty Norwegian pioneer, 1900s single mother

Who settled the harsh Dakota prairie

Hungered through the Depression

And lived to be one hundred and three.

I am from Frieda

A small boned and big hearted, poised German woman

Whose fragrant kitchen and ample table

Veiled stories of a young girl’s fight for bread

On an immigrant ship.

I am from Helen

A kind, commonsense woman, adopted Dutch orphan

Whose hands crocheted comfort and

Whose colorful pantsuits

Were emancipatory images.

I am from Gladys

Who raised seven children

With loving hands and little voice

She buried a son, then a daughter

And never wavered in her faith in the Lord.

I am from Joanne

Outwardly practical, inwardly whimsical

Painting, photographing, collecting, telling celebratory stories

Of Life, love, family

Making me want to learn how to cook.

But mostly

I am from Susan.

In my mother’s face I see my reflection,

In her eyes I see years of selflessness and pride in our future.

She insisted – insists – upon strong daughters, my sister and I.

In following her lead

And finding our identity,

We continue the patchwork, my sister and I,

Crafting new patterns out of familiar fabric

Carrying our heritage forward.