Jelly Bean Brittle

WIN_20150329_141104

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!

World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread

cinnamon-bread-cropped

Half Loaf of Cinnamon Bread – Look at that yummy center!

I really shouldn’t share this, because I’m giving one of my big secrets away. You see, I like to bake loaves of this cinnamon bread for other people, because who doesn’t love cinnamon bread?! People seem to be under the impression that baking this bread is a real labor of love. Well, here’s the big secret… this recipe is stone simple and takes hardly any time at all to prepare.  😉

Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves of World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread)

2 loaves bread dough*

*Either thaw two loaves of Rhodes frozen white bread dough, available in the freezer section of any supermarket, or make a batch of Simple Bread dough and stop at the end of step 5!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cornmeal

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 generous tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

Step 1) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Step 2) Grease a counter top with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 10″ wide and 16″ long.

Step 3) Beginning right along one of the 10″ edges, spread half of the butter/sugar mixture over the dough rectangle. Leave about an inch along each of the long sides bare. Leave about 2 inches along the far, 10″ edge bare.

Step 4) Gently roll up the dough, beginning with the 10″ edge covered in butter/sugar, and rolling toward the 10″ bare edge. The 10″ bare edge should be on the bottom of your rolled up loaf, with the seam on the bottom. Gently pull the side ends down and tuck underneath the loaf.

Step 5) Repeat Steps 2 – 4 with the second half of the dough and the second half of the butter/sugar mixture.

Step 6) Grease a very large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Then, lightly sprinkle the entire baking sheet with cornmeal.

Step 7) Carefully set your two loaves on the baking sheet, with the seams on the bottom. Leave at least 3 inches of space around all sides of each loaf. If your baking sheet is not large enough to allow this, use two baking sheets!

Step 8) Allow your loaves to rest while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees (do not begin preheating until Step 7 is complete). Then, after your oven is preheated, place your loaves on the center rack. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves are light golden brown. Remove loaves from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Optional: After loaves are cool, drizzle with cream cheese frosting for an added treat!

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