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! ¬†ūüėČ

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!

Kids in the Kitchen: Strawberry Creamsicles

straw2Kids love popsicles! They can run around the back yard with them, and rinse off sticky hands and faces by running through the sprinkler. Homemade popsicles are essential… they cost less than store-bought, and using wholesome ingredients means kids enjoy more flavor, take in a few vitamins, and won’t even miss all of the corn syrup and artificial colors in the freezer section of the supermarket.

Strawberry Creamsicles are a favorite here at Crowded Earth Kitchen, but feel free to substitute any fresh, ripe fruit!

Ingredients (Makes 6 popsicles) Continue reading

Tokyo Food Tour! Matcha

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Matcha powder made into hot tea

Matcha tea is an important beverage in Japan, used in traditional tea ceremonies and favored as an everyday, relaxing beverage as well. Before arriving in Tokyo, I understood that matcha was a popular beverage. What I didn’t understand, but have come to appreciate, is that matcha is also a popular food ingredient!

Matcha tea is made from high quality green tea leaves. After the leaves are dried, they are ground into a fine powder (see photo above). Small quantities of matcha powder are whisked (or just stirred) into almost-boiling hot water to make tea. Note that there’s no “tea bag” here – there’s nothing to remove from your cup. Instead, matcha is whole tea, where the leaves themselves are consumed instead of merely steeped. Why is this significant? For starters, drinking matcha tea provides significantly more antioxidants per cup because you are consuming the entire leaf. Remember, antioxidants are¬†powerful little cancer fighters and anti-aging weapons! Also, matcha tea contains more caffeine that steeped tea, making matcha tea a nice substitute for a cup of coffee.

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Barracuda tempura dusted with matcha and salt

Here in Tokyo, we’ve seen matcha powder used as a seasoning. In the photo to the left, a lovely slice of barracuda tempura has been dusted with salt and matcha. Absolutely delicious!

We’ve also seen matcha used to flavor Japanese interpretations of traditional French desserts. I’m reserving those photos, friends, because I plan to recreate a few sweet treats and bring you recipes here at Crowded Earth Kitchen. Stay tuned!

Finally, matcha ice cream is quite popular here. The matcha soft serve ice cream cone shown below is Half-Pint approved!

Want to try matcha for yourself? Here’s a link for you!

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Matcha ice cream – YUM!

Homemade Hot Fudge

WIN_20160114_191200Homemade Hot Fudge takes only about 10 minutes to prepare and is extravagantly delicious. To enjoy this treat, don’t be afraid to think beyond classic hot fudge sundaes. Homemade Hot Fudge is also a fun dipping sauce for fresh strawberries, frozen banana chunks, biscotti, and vanilla wafers. Be creative and enjoy!

Introducing Prime Pantry – Everyday Essentials Delivered to You

WIN_20160114_184934Ingredients (Makes about 3 cups)

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup real butter (not margarine)

2/3 cup chocolate chips

12 ounce can of evaporated milk

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After one minute

Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add remaining ingredients and whisk well to combine.

Step 2) Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir constantly for 8 minutes.

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After eight minutes

Step 3) Allow to cool before serving. Hot fudge is delicious when slightly warm, but should not be literally “hot.”

Store leftover hot fudge in a glass jar (such as a pint size mason jar) in the refrigerator. Warm in a microwave for a few seconds and stir carefully before serving.

Strawberry Ice Cream Topping

WIN_20150809_171917In my corner of the world, summer is slowly giving way to autumn. Leaves are beginning to fall from the trees, apples and pears and creeping into supermarkets in a wide range of seasonally available varieties… and summer berries are making their final appearance for many months. Hurry! Grab a few quarts of strawberries before they’re gone, and preserve them to enjoy throughout the winter. This recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream Topping is simple. When you taste this spooned over a scoop of vanilla ice cream in January, you’ll be glad you took an hour or so right now to plan ahead!

Be sure to read Crowded Earth Kitchen’s safe canning guidelines before you begin! If you have freezer space, you could freeze your ice cream topping in small containers instead.

WIN_20150809_154213Ingredients (Makes 6 pints or 12 half-pints)

12 cups strawberries (cut in half if berries are large)

6 cups sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 pectin cubes or 4 ounces of liquid pectin

Directions

Step 1) Bring strawberries, sugar, cinnamon, and black pepper to a boil in a large pot, stirring frequently.

WIN_20150809_162725Step 2) Add pectin and stir constantly over medium heat for five minutes. Ice cream topping will not “set” like jam, but will thicken to a lovely rich consistency.

Step 3) Ladle mixture into sterilized jars, top with seals and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy!

Blueberry Lemon Ice Cream Topping

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Once you make homemade ice cream topping, you’ll never buy the stuff sold in little jars (or squirt bottles!)¬†at the supermarket again. There’s just nothing quite like fresh, seasonal fruit cooked into luscious ice cream toppings. If you have children in your home, feel free to use them as a perfect excuse to try this recipe. I won’t tell.

WIN_20150725_101234Ingredients (Makes 1 pint)

2 cups blueberries

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons finely diced lemon (peel included)

WIN_20150725_1038521 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Directions

Step 1) Combine blueberries, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon in a medium saucepan. Cook over low-medium heat with WIN_20150725_103350stirring until berries open and sugar dissolves.

Step 2) Bring blueberry mixture to a gentle boil and boil (gently!) with stirring for 5 minutes. Be sure to stir along the bottom of the saucepan so that the bottom does not burn.

Step 3) Whisk together cornstarch and water. Pour cornstarch mixture into the blueberry mixture and stir well. Allow blueberry mixture to boil for 1 more minute. Remove from heat.

Step 4) Allow to cool, then transfer to a pint size mason jar. Ladle over ice cream! Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

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.¬† ūüėȬ† 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.

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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.