Kids in the Kitchen: Elvis Pops

ElvisContrary to what those popular plastic-encased tubes of colored sugar water might have you believe, popsicles don’t need to be high in sugar to be delicious. In fact, they can be… wait for it… good for you! Elvis Pops will help sun-drenched kids cool off in style. There’s really no need to tell them that the treat you’re providing is fueling them up with calcium, protein, vitamins, and fiber. We’ll leave that intel to the grown-ups!  😉

Ingredients (Makes 6 popsicles)

1 large, very ripe banana

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1/3 cup whole milk

Nonstick cooking spray

pop1Directions

Step 1) Spray the inside of the popsicle mold lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Step 2) In a small blender, blend together banana, peanut butter, and whole milk until smooth.

Step 3) Pour mixture into popsicle mold, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top.

Step 4) Insert popsicle sticks/tops and place mold in the freezer until frozen solid. Enjoy!

Autumn Plum Cake

easy-plum-cakeEvery autumn, the New York Times publishes the same plum torte recipe. It has something of a cult following. My friend Denise, a scratch cook who is rather particular about the recipes she endorses, raves about this torte. So, I gave it a try.

It’s good. Really good! The recipe is included here. I had larger plums on hand, so I used slices rather than halves. Whether this recipe is a “torte” or a “cake” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m going with “cake,” as for me the word “torte” conjures up images of complicated, many-layered German desserts. This recipe is blessedly simple. It is quite similar to Rustic Apple Cake, with different fruit. Enjoy this cake (torte?) with a cup of coffee as you watch the leaves fall.

Chocolate Cheesecake Roll

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If chocolate chip cheesecake and homemade sweet rolls fell in love and had a baby, the result might be this Chocolate Cheesecake Roll. One taste and you’ll understand… you need this in your life. Equally perfect for breakfast or dessert, Chocolate Cheesecake Roll can be enjoyed while still warm from the oven OR can be frozen to be frosted and enjoyed later. On second thought, when the aromas of fresh bread and chocolate waft through your kitchen, I doubt the finished product will ever see the inside of a freezer.  😉

WIN_20160208_152324Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves, serves 16)

For the bread:

1 cup milk

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter Continue reading

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

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Here’s a new spin on an old favorite, a truffle that tastes like a peanut butter cup! While some truffle recipes are a bit fussy, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles are super easy. You can use either creamy or chunky peanut butter, depending upon the texture you prefer. You could even substitute the peanut butter for something a little fancier, like almond butter or crème de marron. Be creative and have fun!

WIN_20160214_123938Ingredients (Makes about 36 truffles)

4 ounces semi sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup peanut butter Continue reading

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!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

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What’s even better than sneaking chocolate chip cookie dough from the mixing bowl?

How about safe-to-eat cookie dough dipped in chocolate?

Try this recipe. Happy Monday!  🙂

WIN_20160214_125852Ingredients (Makes 36 truffles)

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

WIN_20160214_1309241/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1 tablespoon milk (if needed)

1 pound milk chocolate bark

WIN_20160214_162404Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and sugars.

Step 2) Stir in vanilla extract, salt, flour, and chocolate chips. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. If dough is too dry and crumbly, sprinkle up to one tablespoon of milk over the dough and stir until a large ball forms.

WIN_20160214_175302Step 3) Roll pieces of dough into small balls, using approximately 1 teaspoon of dough per piece.

Step 4) Cover little dough balls and chill for at least one hour.

Step 5) Melt chocolate bark over low heat in a double boiler, stirring frequently.

Step 6) Use either a fork or a toothpick to dip each dough ball in chocolate. Set dipped truffles on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Step 7) Chill dipped truffles for one hour, either in a refrigerator or outside, depending upon your climate and the time of year.

Step 8) Store Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

 

 

Grandpa John’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

WIN_20160130_121602Grandpa John likes chocolate cake. No, Grandpa John loves chocolate cake… but Grandpa John is watching his carbs. No worries. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we love a good baking challenge!

This cake was inspired by the Chocolate Heaven Cake posted at ditchthecarbs.com. Suspecting that Grandpa John’s sweet tooth was just a bit stronger, I used dark chocolate chips with a lower cacao content to cut the bitter undertones. I also added a bit of almond extract and peanut butter, because we love peanut butter around here!

WIN_20160130_100016Ingredients

10 oz bag of dark chocolate chips (53% cacao)

3/4 cup real butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 eggs

6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar or other sweetener (I used stevia crystals)

1/4 cup “real” creamy peanut butter (not hydrogenated)

WIN_20160130_103228Directions

Step 1) Melt chocolate chips and butter together in a large skillet over low heat (you’ll be glad you used a LARGE skillet later). Stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate.

Step 2) Once chocolate is melted and mixture is completely smooth, remove skillet from heat and set aside.

Step 5) In a separate bowl, whip together eggs, whipping cream, and sweetener on high for 5 minutes. The mixture will fluff up very slightly and will turn a pretty lemon yellow color.

Step 5) After the egg mixture is beaten, your chocolate mixture will have cooled enough to proceed. Stir your extracts into the chocolate mixture.

Step 6) Take your time here… slowly fold the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture. Add about 1/4 of the egg mixture at a time, carefully whisking everything together before adding more egg mixture. Aren’t you glad you used your larger skillet now?

Step 7) Once your batter is thoroughly mixed (you shouldn’t see any streaks of egg), carefully pour your mixture into a well greased baking dish. I’m using a 9 inch Springform pan, but a pie pan ought to work just as well.

WIN_20160130_103911Step 8) Spoon peanut butter into a snack size bag and snip off one corner of the bag as shown above. Use this homemade pastry bag to draw a design with peanut butter onto your chocolate cake batter.

Step 9) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until set.

This cake slices easiest when very cold. Enjoy!WIN_20160130_121719

Easy Chocolate Fondue

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This chocolate fondue requires only three ingredients – what could be easier? While a fondue pot works wonderfully, it isn’t essential. A double boiler or even a small saucepan can work just as well (use a low heat, to avoid scorching). Try chocolate fondue for your next party, movie night, or stay-at-home date!


WIN_20160101_200024Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 pound milk chocolate

1 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur

Treats for dipping (marshmallows, pretzel sticks, and strawberries work well)

WIN_20160101_201022Directions

Step 1) Combine chocolate and half-and-half in a fondue pot (or top of a double boiler). Melt over low heat, stirring constantly.

Step 2) Just before serving, stir in Irish cream liqueur. Enjoy!

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Delicious!

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!

Apple Gingerbread

WIN_20150901_172011What tastes like autumn and makes your kitchen smell amazing? Apple Gingerbread! Imagine warm, fragrant gingerbread combined with baked apples… what’s not to love? This dish is equally fabulous for Sunday brunch or a weeknight dessert.

WIN_20150901_154959Ingredients (Fills a 9 inch pie dish)

1 large apple, diced

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/3 cup all-natural applesauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/3 cup molasses

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons milk

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Step 1) Grease a 9 inch pie dish. Sprinkle chopped apple evenly on bottom of the pie dish.

Good Cook 9 Inch Ceramic Pie Plate, Red

Step 2) Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium size bowl and blend well. Spread batter evenly over chopped apple.

Step 3) Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Plum Tart

WIN_20150915_201813Plum season makes me nostalgic for France. During my travels to Lichtenberg, plum trees were everywhere, heavy with fruit. Not surprisingly, local cafes and bistros featured plums prominently on their menus. This tart reminds me of that visit and makes me smile.

Ingredients (Serves 8 – 10)

For the crust:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup ground pecans

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons brandy

1 egg

For the filling:

9 small plums, halved and pits removed

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened (or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon brandy

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Directions

WIN_20150915_181058Step 1) Combine flour, pecans, and sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles little peas.  Add egg and brandy.  Mix – use your hands! – until well combined.

Step 2) Press dough into a tart pan (a pie dish would work fine, too).  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the dough and sprinkle with dried beans.  This will keep air bubbles from forming and “puffing up” your dough.

Step 3) Bake dough (foil, beans, and all) in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove beans and foil, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Step 4) While crust cools, use an electric mixer to combine softened Neufchâtel cheese, eggs, sugar, brandy, and lemon zest.

Step 5) Spread cheese filling over crust. Gently press plum halves, cut side down, into cheese filling.

Step 6) Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve warm or cold. I prefer this dish cold.

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Easy Raspberry Lemon Freezer Pie

WIN_20150723_101500If you only try one new recipe this summer, try this pie. Seriously. Easy Raspberry Lemon Freezer Pie takes about five minutes to prepare and is delicious. We’re even using a store bought graham cracker crust without any guilt or apology. It’s summertime. Who wants to make homemade pie crust when there are much more important things to do like soak up sunshine in a hammock? Not me. 😉

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WIN_20150723_095311Ingredients (Makes 8 servings)

1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust

1 8 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 8 oz package light cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup lemon juice

WIN_20150723_1004001/2 cup raspberries, divided

Thin lemon slices for garnish

Directions

Step 1) Using an electric mixer, combine softened cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. The mixture should be WIN_20150723_100842completely smooth. Add lemon juice and blend for 1 minute.

Step 2) Add 1/4 cup raspberries and blend with the electric mixer on low for about 30 seconds. The raspberries will quickly fall apart and combine nicely with the pie filling.

Step 3) Pour pie filling into the graham cracker crust. Smooth the top with a rubber scraper. Garnish with whole raspberries and lemon slices.

Step 4) Place pie in freezer for several hours until firm. Remove from freezer 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

Crookneck “Apple” Crisp

WIN_20150723_181358By August, even the most creative cooks can find themselves wondering what on earth to make with all of the summer squash exploding right out of their garden. This recipe puts crookneck squash to flavorful use in a crisp which tastes just like apples. This recipe freezes well, and makes both a delicious dessert and a scrumptious breakfast. Feel free to substitute patty pan squash or zucchini; either will work just fine.

WIN_20150723_171103Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 crookneck squash, approximately 8 inches long

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

WIN_20150723_1717472 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

For the topping:

1/2 cup whole oats

WIN_20150723_1726591/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons cold butter

Directions

Step 1) Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Slice squash into 1/2 WIN_20150723_172650inch pieces and place in a large saute pan with a lid.

Step 2) Add lemon juice and water to pan. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes until squash is slightly tender (don’t overcook!).

Step 3) While squash is cooking, combine oats, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, WIN_20150723_173258and cold butter in a small bowl. Cut together with a pastry cutter or two forks until mixture resembles crumbs.

Step 4) Drain squash. Combine cooked squash, sugar, flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and cloves. Mix gently and pour into a greased, 1 quart casserole dish.

Step 5) Top with crumb topping from step 3 and bake (uncovered) in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.