Ivan’s Easy Mango Jam

mango jamIvan, a Crowded Earth Kitchen apprentice, is excited to share this recipe with you today. His low-sugar mango jam recipe is simple to prepare and so delicious you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making mango jam for years. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes about 2 cups of jam) Continue reading

Dried Pineapple Snacks

pineappleWith all the flavor of fresh, ripe pineapple and a chewy, candy-like texture, Dried Pineapple Snacks are perfect for combating a case of midday munchies. Even better, this snack has Continue reading

Freshly Canned Pineapple

pineappleIn my Midwest US community, pineapple is selling for $1.29 this week at Aldi. I have a sister-in-law who lives in Hawaii (I’m not irrationally jealous, really. Mostly.). Do you know what she told me pineapple is selling for in Hawaii – you know, where pineapple is grown?

$1.29

I can’t make this stuff up.

Today we’re taking advantage of this insanely low price by preserving pineapple in canning jars. It’s super easy, and tastes just like fresh Continue reading

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.

Peach Spoon Cake

WIN_20151214_184414This simple dessert looks like a peach cobbler but tastes more like a yellow cake with peach filling. Peaches aren’t in season? No problem – frozen peach slices will work just as well. I enjoy Peach Spoon Cake as a weeknight dessert, but it could also make a decadent treat for Sunday brunch. Enjoy!

WIN_20151214_173727Ingredients (Serves 6)

1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 peaches, cut into quarters

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

WIN_20151214_174654Directions

Step 1) Grease a 2 quart casserole dish and set aside.

Step 2) Blend together butter, sugar, almond extract, and egg. Stir in milk, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Step 3) Transfer the batter to the casserole dish. Top with quartered peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Step 4) Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow Peach Spoon Cake to cool before serving.

Vanilla Spiced Pears

WIN_20150914_134748Vanilla Spiced Pears are wonderful when warmed for breakfast or served with a slice of pound cake for dessert. Pretty mason jars of these pears make lovely hostess gifts for the holiday season, as well! [If you’re looking for a hostess gift with a decidedly adult flair, check out this similar recipe for Brandied Pears.]

Money saving tip: If you’re buying pears at an orchard or farm stand, ask for “seconds.” Often, growers will only display their perfectly unblemished (No. 1) fruit for sale. Fruit which is still perfectly good for canning but has tiny cosmetic defects is considered No. 2 grade, and is often sold at steep discounts to customers who ask. During a recent orchard visit, I was able to buy pear seconds for half the price of unblemished pears, and the seconds had barely any defects at all (see photo).

WIN_20150914_124111Ingredients (Makes 7 quarts)

27 – 30 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and sliced thick

4 cups sugar

*1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon whole allspice

1/2 cup lemon juice

8 cups water

*Don’t skimp on the real vanilla bean – vanilla extract is not a good substitute here. You can order vanilla beans to be delivered right to your door, if you wish: Grade A Premium Gourmet Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans , Fresh Prime, Approximatelly 17 Centimeters (Pack of 10)

WIN_20150914_123917Directions

Step 1) Bring sugar vanilla bean, cloves, allspice, lemon juice, and water to a boil in a large stockpot. Boil gently, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

Step 2) Reduce heat to simmer. Add pear slices and simmer for two minutes.

WIN_20150914_132059Step 3) Ladle pears into sterilized quart size canning jars. Make sure pears are covered with the vanilla spiced syrup, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Don’t be afraid to really pack the pear slices into the jars!

Step 4) Remove air bubbles from the jars by sliding a butter knife or canning tool along the inside of each jar. Cover jars with lids and rims. Process jars in a boiling water canning bath for 20 minutes.

Strawberry Balsamic Sorbet

WIN_20150719_203628Recently, we spent a morning at a local farm picking strawberries. We brought home approximately twenty pounds of berries, in addition to the pound that Half-Pint managed to eat while scampering around in the field.  😉  Fresh picked strawberries are small, flavor packed morsels of summer goodness, and taste oh so much better than the big-but-bland strawberries sold in most supermarkets. It would be tempting to pick berries all day long, but there’s a catch… strawberries can spoil alarmingly quickly. Forget about having a few days to leisurely make jams, jellies, and other goodies. If you bring strawberries home from the field, you better preserve them the same day.

WIN_20150702_133549

Don’t panic – Freeze! As explained in a previous post, summer fruit is easy to freeze. You can thaw berries later to make jams and jellies (the end product is just as delicious). Today, we’re using frozen strawberries to make what just might be the Easiest Sorbet In The Entire World. Because the berries are already frozen, all we need to do is blend three ingredients together. In less time than it would take to pour a glass of lemonade for your dinner guests, you can make them a dish of Strawberry Balsamic Sorbet. How cool is that?

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

2 cups small, frozen strawberries

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Mint sprigs for garnish

WIN_20150719_201853Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender, but don’t blend right away! Let the ingredients sit in the blender at room temperature for approximately ten minutes. When berries are still partially frozen but not rock hard (you should be able to pierce them with a fork), puree the ingredients together. Scoop into small dishes with an ice cream scoop and garnish with mint. Serve immediately.