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.  😉

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

Chocolate Easter Egg Cookies

Chocolate Easter Egg Cookies

WIN_20160321_213809Springtime is perfect for festively decorated cookies, and what could be more festive than cookies decorated to resemble brightly colored Easter eggs? Today’s recipe begins with a rich, delicious sugar cookie and ends with a deceptively simple decorating technique. You won’t need buttercream frosting today, folks… we’re using something even more amazing!

WIN_20160321_152817Ingredients (Makes 24 large cookies)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 egg Continue reading

Easter Sunrise Smoothie

WIN_20150330_093541

Happy Easter! Today is an early morning at Crowded Earth Kitchen, which stems from tradition. When I was a child, I walked to Sunrise Service every Easter with my Grandmother. She only lived one block from her church, but she lived at the bottom (church was at the top) of a rather steep hill. As Grandma grew older and her knees grew more arthritic, she and I would leave earlier and earlier to walk “up the hill” to church. As a little girl skipping along in my Easter dress, it sometimes seemed to me as if Grandma was barely moving!  Looking back, I treasure those memories.

Fast forward a few (OK, more than a few) years… I now drag my teenager out of bed for Sunrise Service every Easter morning.  He’s a good sport about it, probably because he doesn’t have to walk anywhere, he just has to drag his tired self to the car.  Fair enough.

A big breakfast at this early hour just isn’t going to happen. Instead, we enjoy a quick Easter Sunrise Smoothie. This is a great way to start your day, particularly if you’re planning on a heavy Easter meal later in the day.  Enjoy the day, however (and whether) you celebrate Easter!

WIN_20150330_092738Ingredients (Makes 1 smoothie)

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

1/4 cup frozen cranberries

3 ice cubes

Blend together in a blender or food processor. If mixture is too thick, add water a few tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached. Pour into a fancy glass and garnish with citrus wedges or berries.  Enjoy!

Easy Bird Nest Candy

WIN_20150403_210254One microwave. Four ingredients. Ten minutes. You’ve got this!

Bird Nest Candy is just about the simplest thing you can bring to your Easter gathering without looking like you stopped at the gas station and grabbed whatever vaguely edible thing was on display next to the lottery tickets to avoid showing up empty handed. This recipe doesn’t require you to bake anything, but don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

WIN_20150403_200546Ingredients (Makes 12 Nests)

1 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups chow mein noodles

1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional!)

12 “robin egg” candy eggs (or substitute jelly beans)

WIN_20150403_19565512 Peeps

Directions

Step 1) Microwave white chocolate chips until melted, stirring every 30 seconds.

Step 2) Stir in chow mein noodles.

Step 3) Drop heaping tablespoons of the WIN_20150403_203230chow mein/white chocolate mixture onto waxed paper. Press a robin egg candy or a jelly bean into the center of each nest.

Step 4) Set a Peep off center on each nest. If you want to make sure your Peeps don’t fall off, put a dot of melted white chocolate under each Peep.

Done! Happy Easter!

Tye Dyed Easter Eggs

WIN_20150330_111221

Tye Dyed Easter Eggs are original, colorful, simple, and fun – what’s not to love? Pick up a dozen eggs, find the food coloring that’s lurking in the back of your pantry, and let’s get started!

WIN_20150330_091719Ingredients and Supplies

1 dozen eggs

food coloring (4 drops per color)

vinegar (1 teaspoon per color)

thin rubber bands

WIN_20150330_105350Directions

Step 1) Carefully place eggs in a large skillet and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove eggs from water and immediately place in refrigerator to cool.

WIN_20150330_105806Step 2) Wrap each egg in several rubber bands (not too tight, or the eggs will break!).

Step 3) For each desired color, combine 4 drops of food coloring and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Medicine cups work well for this.

Step 4) Using a small art brush, paint each color within the boundaries of the rubber bands. Use color sparingly (don’t soak the WIN_20150330_110857brush) for best results.

Step 5) Allow eggs to dry before removing rubber bands.

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.  😉

All Natural Easter Eggs

picture551 (2)

Hop.  Hop.  Hippity Hop!  That bunny will be here in just a few days, and wouldn’t it be fun if he arrived with a basket of all natural, beautifully dyed Easter eggs?  This spring, let’s leave those artificial dye pellets in all of their excess packaging at the market, and opt for coloring eggs with a few simple kitchen ingredients instead.  It’s safe, economical, and fun!

picture532Ingredients (makes 18 hard boiled Easter eggs)

18 eggs

water (1 cup per dye color, plus water for cooking eggs)

vinegar (1 tablespoon per color)

picture550 (2)1 cup coffee (for chocolate brown color)

1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage (for robin’s egg blue color)

1 tablespoon ground paprika (for caramel color)

2 tablespoons dill seed (for pale yellow color)

picture5481 red beet (for gray color)

Other ideas (not shown):

1/2 cup shredded spinach (for pastel green color)

1 tablespoon ground turmeric (for gold color)

Directions

Step 1) Place eggs gently in a single layer in a large pan, and cover completely with water.

Step 2) Bring pan to a gentle simmer and cover.  Cook eggs at a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove eggs from water.

picture547Step 3) For chocolate brown eggs:  Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup of cold coffee in a 2-cup container.  Add up to three eggs (double the vinegar and coffee if you wish to color more than three eggs using coffee).

Step 4) For blue eggs: Bring shredded cabbage and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Drain picture545liquid into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.  Note:  adding vinegar to your cabbage water will turn the water pink.  Your eggs will still turn out blue.  Ah, the marvels of chemistry!  Note:  follow this same procedure using spinach instead of cabbage, if you’d like to make pastel green eggs.

Step 3) For gray eggs:  Peel one red beet.  Bring the peels and 1 cup of water to a boil.  Drain liquid into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.

Step 4) For yellow eggs:  Lightly crush dill seed with a mortar and pestle, a meat tenderizer, or 1 -2 seconds in a grinder.   Add to 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes before draining liquid into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.

Step 5) For caramel colored eggs:  Boil 1 cup of water with paprika.  Filter through a coffee filter into a 2-cup container.  Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and up to three eggs.  Follow this same procedure if you plan to try using turmeric.

Step 6) For all colors:  Place your 2-cup containers of all natural dye and hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator.  Allow eggs to soak in dye at least overnight; 24 hours is best.  Remove eggs from dye and allow to air dry on a paper towel.  Dyed eggs will have a matte finish.  If you’d prefer shiny eggs, carefully rub them with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.