Turmeric Springtime Smoothie

WIN_20160213_083023Turmeric contains an amazing substance called curcumin, which is widely recognized as both a powerful antioxidant and a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Finding ways to work turmeric into your diet is an all-around good idea. There’s a catch, though – in order for your body to absorb that valuable curcumin, you need to consume turmeric with either a little black pepper or a bit of fat.

Today’s recipe for a simple Turmeric Springtime Smoothie is designed to introduce turmeric to those unfamiliar with this little root, and contains ingredients designed to aid in curcumin absorption. Did I mention this Turmeric Springtime Smoothie has an awesome tropical flavor? What are you waiting for?

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160213_083246Ingredients (Makes 1 large smoothie)

2 tablespoons freshly grated turmeric root Continue reading

Carrot Soup

WIN_20160124_154246This soup is very easy to prepare, super healthy, and really delicious – what more can I say? The bright orange color, subtle sweetness, and lack of anything suspiciously green means that children will devour this soup! Feel free to adjust the curry powder to suit your taste. If you are feeding a particularly reluctant veggie eater, substitute the parsley garnish for a sprinkle of brown sugar. This one is guaranteed to please!

Ingredients

2 quarts stock (vegetable stock and chicken stock work equally well)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 pounds of carrots, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks

15 ounce can of coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or hot, whichever you prefer)

parsley to garnish

WIN_20160124_145222Directions

Step 1) Bring stock, garlic, onion, and carrots to a boil in a large pot. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer gently until carrots are very soft, approximately 30 minutes.

Step 2) Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Puree carrot mixture with an immersion blender.

Step 3) Stir in coconut milk, black pepper, and curry powder. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Garnish and serve warm. Enjoy your carrot soup!

Rainbow of Roasted Vegetables

WIN_20160206_213713It’s easy to get The Blaaahs this time of year.

“What exactly are ‘The Blaaahs‘,” you ask?

The Blaaahs is the highly scientific term (not really) for feeling run down, sluggish, under-rested, over-worked, and seriously lacking in the rejuvenating powers of sunshine and sand! Short of booking a plane ticket to Jamaica – not that I object to that idea – the best way to beat The Blaaahs is to fortify your diet with brightly colored, vitamin packed vegetables. Try this Rainbow of Roasted Vegetables for dinner tonight, and let me know if you feel a bit better tomorrow!

WIN_20160206_211338Ingredients (Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish)

1 bright orange yam, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 purple sweet potato, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 cup shiitake or baby bella mushrooms, quartered

2 cups fresh green broccoli, cut bite size

1 small red bell pepper, cut bite size

3 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 lemon

Directions

Step 1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spoon 3 tablespoons of coconut oil onto a large baking sheet with shallow sides, and place in the oven for 1 minute to melt.

Step 2) Remove baking sheet from oven, and use a metal spatula to spread the melted coconut oil all over the baking sheet. Place orange yam and purple sweet potato slices on baking sheet, then turn over with a spatula so that both sides are lightly coated with oil.

Step 3) Place baking sheet in oven and roast yams/sweet potatoes for 10 minutes.

Step 4) Remove baking sheet from oven after 10 minutes. Add broccoli to the pan, and turn over everything on the pan once more. Return pan to oven for another 10 minutes.

Step 5) After another 10 minutes have passed, remove baking sheet from oven again. Add mushrooms and red pepper to the pan, and turn over everything on the pan one final time. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper over all of the vegetables, and return the pan to the oven for a final 10 minutes.

Step 6) Remove pan from the oven after the final 10 minutes, and taste to see that the vegetables are done to your liking. (If not, feel free to return the pan to the oven for a few minutes.) Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon evenly over all of the vegetables, and serve!

Dry Roasted Pepitas

WIN_20151001_205630Why do so many people stop roasting pumpkin seeds after Halloween? I have no idea. Seeds make a delicious and filling snack throughout the winter! Even better, they’re an excellent source of zinc, vitamin E, and fiber. In order to preserve their nutritional punch, pumpkin seeds or “pepitas” must be cooked quickly. The easiest way to accomplish this is with dry roasting in a saute pan. A saute pan? I suppose that’s cheating a bit, but since it saves time, let’s go for it!

WIN_20151001_130124 - CopyIngredients (Makes about 1 cup)

1 large, speckled pumpkin (look for a striped pumpkin with streaks of green, if you want colorful green seeds)

1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of sugar

Directions

Step 1) Scoop insides out of pumpkin, saving the pumpkin flesh for other uses!

Step 2) Separate pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and wash WIN_20151001_130208them thoroughly. Pat dry with a clean towel.
Step 3) Place pumpkin seeds in a nonstick saute pan and saute over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue heating and stirring for approximately 5 minutes, until a few seeds begin to turn a golden color and the air is fragrant with the aroma of roasted seeds.

Step 4) Sprinkle pumpkin seeds with salt and sugar. Saute for a few seconds longer, then remove pan from heat. Allow pumpkin seeds to cool in the pan. WIN_20151001_141106Enjoy when cool.

Dry Roasted Pepitas freeze well in an airtight container. To enjoy at a later date, allow the seeds to thaw at room temperature. Then, warm in a saute pan before serving.

Inside Out Bloody Marys

WIN_20151120_165913

This just might be the easiest item to prepare on your entire party buffet… and the most popular! Who doesn’t love a good Bloody Mary? Sure, the spicy, tomato based vodka beverage is tasty, but everyone knows the best part of a well made Bloody Mary is the garnish. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we ran with that idea and created Inside Out Bloody Marys. The beverage itself is shot sized and potent, accompanied by an assortment of excellent pickled vegetables. Rock On!

Ingredients (Serves 12)

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) spicy Bloody Mary mix, chilled (Preservation and Co. Bloody Mary Mix 32 Oz. Jar)

12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) good quality vodka, chilled

1 cup of pickled mushrooms

1 cup of pickled beans (Tabasco Beans, Spicy, 16 Ounce)

1 cup of pickled okra (TABASCO Spicy Pickled Okra 12 oz. jar)

Double (3 ounce) shot glasses

Toothpicks

Directions

OK, friends – this is easy enough to prepare even if you’ve already enjoyed a full size Bloody Mary or three. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†Begin by arranging your relishes in the center of a party platter. If you want more than three options, go for it. Try thick slices of dill pickles, ginger pickled carrots, garlic stuffed green olives, rosemary pickled cherry tomatoes, etc.

Next, arrange your shot glasses on the outer edge of the party platter. Fill your shot glasses half full with chilled vodka, and top with chilled Bloody Mary mix. Serve immediately!

 

Mom’s Poblano and Cilantro Rice

 

WIN_20150921_140829Every summer I grow poblano peppers, many of which find their way to my mother’s house. She works some sort of kitchen magic on those peppers, and they turn into all sorts of wonderful things (some day I’ll get her recipe for Poblano Pepper Lasagna on Crowded Earth Kitchen, but that’s a recipe for another day…)! One such wonderful thing is this Poblano and Cilantro Rice.

I’m not actually sure if this is her original recipe or if she found it elsewhere. – if it’s not, I’ll post an update with an original source for you. Either way, it’s delicious!

Ingredients (Makes about 4 cups)

3 teaspoons oil, divided

l/2 cup chopped onions

2 poblano peppers

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon cumin

l/2 teaspoon salt

l/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

l/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

l 3/4 cup chicken broth (or use vegetable broth for a vegan option)

1 cup uncooked rice

Directions

Step 1) Roast poblano peppers by either a) broiling for 2 minutes per side or b) holding with tongs over a gas stove burner for 1 minute per side. The peel will bubble and blacken – this is what you want to happen. Place the peppers in a plastic bag for 5 minutes. Peel off the skin (this will be easy) and remove stems and seeds. Chop peppers in large pieces.

[Side note: My mom peels the peppers, which is truly what most people recommend. I roast the peppers but do not remove the blistered peel. I like the little charred flecks in my dishes… and I’m lazy!]

Step 2) Heat 2 teaspoons oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Cook onions and poblanos for 3 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, salt, cilantro and parsley.  Cook just a few seconds to combine.  Remove from heat and puree with l/2 cup of the chicken broth until smooth.

Step 3) Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the same pan over medium heat.  Add the raw rice, and cook 2 minutes.  Add the puree mixture and cook for a minute or two.  Add the remaining chicken broth, stir and cover pan.  Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, without stirring, 10 to 15 minutes til rice is tender.

Step 4) Fluff with a fork and serve.  Garnish with additional cilantro.

Southern Style Chow Chow

WIN_20150828_185240Chow chow?

I have no idea where the name originated – catchy though, isn’t it? There are many, many variations on chow chow, which is basically a corn chutney made from the bits and scraps of whatever is left in a garden before the first freeze, preserved in a sweet brine. This batch of chow chow is made from corn, Poblano peppers, onion, and green beans because that’s what I had on hand. If you have green tomatoes, asparagus, or cauliflower to use, those vegetables also work well. As long as your vegetables “add up” to 18 cups, you can follow the brine recipe as shown below. Be creative with your combinations of corn and other veggies, and have fun!

If you’re looking for serving suggestions, chow chow (like many forms of chutney) is often served over beans and rice.

WIN_20150828_174447Ingredients (Makes 10 pints)

18 cups assorted garden vegetables, such as:

  • 6 cups diced Poblano pepper
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 6 cups green beans, cut in 1 inch pieces

Brine:

4 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground mustard powder

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

WIN_20150828_175528Directions

Step 1) Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Step 2) Reduce brine to simmer, and add all 18 cups of vegetables. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 3) Ladle chow chow mixture into sterilized, pint size canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Use a canning tool or butter knife to remove air bubbles. Top jars with lids and rims, and process in a boiling water canning bath for 10 minutes.

“But I don’t have a canning pot!”

Sigh. You still don’t have a canning pot? They’re only around $20, my friend, and will save you tons of money! Here’s a link to get you started:¬†Granite Ware 0707-1 Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack, 21.5-Quart, Black

Happy canning!

Salted Green Bean Crisps

WIN_20150831_101227Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’re big fans of vegetable snacks such as zucchini crisps, seasoned kale, and Brussels sprouts chips.¬†But green beans? Well, why not?

Green beans are abundant this time of year, so I trimmed a few pounds and experimented. First, I just dehydrated a few beans without any other preparation.

Yuck.

Second, I blanched a few beans in boiling water and salted them before dehydrating.

Better, but not something I would make twice.

My third attempt was spot on. I roasted the beans before placing them in the dehydrator, and the results were delicious! I now keep a little container of Salted Green Bean Crisps in my car, for guilt-free snacking as I drive past three ice cream stores (no joke) on my way home from the gym!

WIN_20150830_164418Ingredients (Fills a quart size container)

1 pound fresh green beans

1 tablespoon oil (I like toasted sesame oil, but coconut oil also works well)

1 tablespoon sea salt

WIN_20150830_171728Directions

Step 1) Wash and trim ends from green beans.

Step 2) Coat green beans with 1 tablespoon of oil on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Roast beans in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 3) Allow green beans to cool, then transfer to food dehydrator trays. Dehydrate for 12 hours, or until beans snap in half easily. Store beans in an airtight container.

Ronco FD1005WHGEN 5-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

 

Easy Bread and Butter Pickles

WIN_20150830_135132Somewhere in between the sweetness of sweet gherkins and the saltiness of dill pickles lives bread and butter pickles. Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we think they’re delicious!

Some bread and butter pickle recipes are fussy, requiring cooks to soak cucumbers for long periods of time and/or change brines throughout the process. In our humble opinion, none of that is really necessary. You can prepare these bread and butter pickles in less than half an hour, and be on with your day!

If you don’t want to can these, no worries – just stop after Step 1 below and transfer your pickles and brine into refrigerator containers. Refrigerate for at least one week and up to one month.

WIN_20150830_130254Ingredients (Makes 4 pints)

8 cups small cucumbers, cut into bite size chunks

1 small white onion, sliced thin

2 cups white vinegar

WIN_20150830_1304352 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon sweet curry powder, such as Organic Sweet Curry Powder (Salt Free)

Directions

WIN_20150830_133949Step 1) Bring vinegar, sugar, salt, and curry powder to a boil. Add cucumber chunks and sliced onion. Return to a boil, then remove from heat.

Step 2) Ladle pickles into sterilized pint size canning jars and top with brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Top with lids and rims, and process in a boiling water canning bath for 10 minutes.

Tom Yum Vegetables

WIN_20150828_205931I enjoy garden fresh vegetables perhaps more than most people, but really folks, a gal can only eat so much zucchini before she starts to frown at the prolific plants in the garden! Luckily, I snapped out of my frown quickly, and mustered up a bit of kitchen creativity.

WIN_20150828_193953I keep a jar of Tom Yum paste, which is a Thai hot and sour seasoning base, in my freezer at all times. The flavor combination of lemongrass, tamarind, chili peppers, garlic, and lime (among other things) is exquisite, and really has no equivalent in American or Western cooking. In other words, it’s perfect for when you are feeling the Zucchini Blues!

WIN_20150828_194711Ingredients (Fills a 9″ pie dish, about 6 side dish servings)

1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rings

1 large yellow potato, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings

1 large tomato, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings

WIN_20150828_1952422 tablespoons Tom Yum paste – any variety, such as Spicy Tom Yum Paste / Instant Sour Paste

1 cup coconut milk

Directions

Step 1) Grease a 9″ pie dish with olive oil. Arrange zucchini, potato, and tomato slices as shown (zucchini, potato, zucchini, tomato, repeat).

Step 2) Whisk together the Tom Yum paste and coconut milk. Pour over vegetables. Use a pastry brush to spreading coconut milk mixture, evenly coating vegetables.

Step 3) Cover the pie dish with foil. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.

Tomato Corn Chutney

WIN_20150825_195646This sweet and tangy recipe is so versatile, I can recommend three completely different dinner ideas right off the top of my head. First, you can combine one quart of chilled Tomato Corn Chutney with one pound of cooked, chilled shrimp and a diced jalapeno pepper for a fantastic spin on coctel de camerones. Second, you can combine one quart of warmed Tomato Corn Chutney with a small can of black beans and one pound of cooked, cubed chicken for a delicious chicken chili. Third, you can drain a quart of Tomato Corn Chutney and combine it with one pound of seasoned ground beef for a tasty enchilada filling.

However you plan to use this chutney, remember… the season for fresh sweet corn is SHORT!

Ingredients (Makes 5 quarts or 10 pints)

1 large white onion, diced

1 large green bell pepper, diced

1 large green apple, diced

5 pounds of tomatoes (about 20 tomatoes), coarsely chopped

8 ears of sweet corn (kernels only)

2 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon salt

WIN_20150825_200648Directions

Step 1) Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot. This is simple, but peeling and cutting corn, chopping tomatoes, and dicing peppers, onions, and apples takes a little while. Be patient.

Step 2) Bring all ingredients to a gentle boil.

Step 3) Ladle chutney into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles by running a knife or canning tool along the inside of the jars. Top with lids and rims, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (pints) or 20 minutes (quarts).

WIN_20150825_211601

Pecan Freezer Pesto

WIN_20150824_163338Now that the nights are cooler, my basil plants are looking pretty tired. The leaves are beginning to turn a paler shade of green, and I will lose them to winter soon. It’s time for a quick harvest! Luckily, my Swiss chard greens are looking fabulous. Today we’re making a simple pesto using a combination of chard and basil, with pecans instead of the more popular (and very expensive!) pine nuts. This pesto freezes beautifully, and will provide you with the wonderful flavor of fresh basil all winter long.

Ingredients (Makes 2 1/2 cups)

6 cups loosely packed chard leaves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

3 cups loosely packed basil leaves

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

WIN_20150824_172114Directions

Step 1) Combine chard leaves, pecans, and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until fairly smooth.

Step 2) Add basil, salt, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until smooth, using a rubber scraper to incorporate ingredients if necessary.

Step 3) Use a teaspoon to fill each well of an ice cube tray with pesto. Place in freezer until pesto is completely solid, then remove pesto cubes and freeze in a resealable freezer bag.

Add individual cubes of pesto to sautéed vegetables, pasta sauces, soups, and casseroles all winter long!

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:
¬ľ cup butter (or vegan substitute)
1 cup apple jelly

Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9‚ÄĚ x 13‚ÄĚ 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:

¬ľ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

1 cup blueberry jam

Blueberry Bars¬†Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9‚ÄĚ x 13‚ÄĚ 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

¬ĺ 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:

¬ľ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

¬Ĺ cup natural peanut butter

¬ľ cup brown sugar

¬Ĺ cup honey (or maple syrup as a vegan substitute)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars¬† Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9‚ÄĚ x 13‚ÄĚ 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!

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.