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.

Ice Cream Cone Cookies

WIN_20150529_123126Chocolate sugar cookies frosted (generously!) with vanilla orange frosting and dressed in their summertime best with festive sprinkles. What’s not to love? Half Pint and Pickle in the Middle actually giggled with joy when they discovered these cookies in the kitchen. Half Grown is too big to giggle over a cookie, but not too big to devour them with a (half hidden) smile.

These cookies freeze well, so tuck this recipe away for a bit of rainy day summertime fun. Make a double batch, and freeze them to bring along on your next picnic!

WIN_20150529_102152Ingredients (Makes about 3 dozen cookies)

For the cookies:

2/3 cup softened butter

1 egg

3/4 cup sugar

WIN_20150529_1033181 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon rum (or vanilla extract)

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

WIN_20150529_115516For the frosting:

1/3 cup softened butter

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkles

Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter, egg, sugar, cocoa powder, and rum. Mix in flour and baking powder. Place in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Step 2) On a floured surface, roll cookie dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut into ice cream cone shapes with a cookie cutter. Carefully transfer cookie cutouts to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Step 3) Press a meat tenderizer very gently into the cone portion of each ice cream cone cookie cutout. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, you could make a criss-cross pattern with the tines of a fork.

Step 4) Bake cookies in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are slightly browned. Leave cookies on the baking sheet and allow to cool completely.

Step 5) Combine butter, confectioner’s sugar, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer on a low speed until frosting is well combined. If frosting is too thick, add a bit more orange juice. If frosting is too thin, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar.

Step 6) Cut the corner off of a sandwich bag, and add about 1 cup of frosting to the bag. Use this homemade pastry bag to squeeze frosting onto the ice cream portion of each cookie. Begin by outlining the shape of a scoop of ice cream (don’t forget the drips – see photo above). Then, squeeze frosting generously inside of the outline.

Step 7) Top each “scoop of ice cream” with sprinkles. Enjoy!

Kids in the Kitchen: Let’s Make Ice Cream!

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All set to play with our food!

Cooking with children is dreadfully messy but delightedly fun!¬† Few things are more fun than making ice cream.¬† Personally, I’d like to try the semi-famous “Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball” – allow you to play with your food quite literally, for just a few dollars.¬† Here’s a link, if you’re curious:

YayLabs Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball Ice Cream Maker, Pint, Blue

If fancy-schmancy grown-up ice creams are more your thing, Cuisinart has a few models that will set you back a few more dollars, but still cost less than a good stockpot:

Cuisinart ICE-21 Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, White

We used a “Young Chef” brand children’s ice cream maker, which for some strange reason I can no longer find online (sorry).

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Young Chef brand ice cream maker

The premise behind most ice cream makers, however, is essentially the same.¬† Milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring go on the inside, while ice and salt go on the outside.¬† The rest is just window dressing.¬† Here’s what we did…

Step 1) Add 2 cups of ice cubes, 1/3 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons hot water to the inside of the metal “freezer drum.”

Step 2) Seal tightly and set the freezer drum inside the ice cream maker so that it locks into the gears of the handle (very easy).

Step 3) Combine 1 cup milk, 1 cup cream, 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, and a flavoring in a small pitcher.  For flavoring, you could add 1 teaspoon of any baking extract, a bit of pureed fruit, or perhaps a tablespoon of chocolate sauce.  We used 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Step 4) Pour half of the ice cream mixture over the freezer drum and turn the handle.¬† Give the handle about ten turns, then use the orange lever to “scrape” ice cream off of the freezer drum and into a wide container (to avoid spills). Transfer ice cream into¬†little serving cups.

Step 5) Continue turning the handle, scraping, and adding more ice cream mixture.  You will end up with about 2 cups of ice cream.

WIN_20150102_172550On a scale from 1 – 10, I’d give the “Young Chef” ice cream maker…

10 for fun! The kids loved it.

8 for ease of use! This wasn’t complicated, but I suspect the “Ice Cream Ball” ice cream maker would be even more simple.

5 for ice cream quality! As you can see from the photo on the left, the ice cream wasn’t very creamy. I still give this a solid “5” because the kids really didn’t care about the consistency.

Whatever model of ice cream maker you try, just go play in the kitchen. There will be plenty of time to keep sugar off of the floor when the kids grow up.

Eis in Eisenach, Germany

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEisenach is a bustling town of approximately 40,000 people in the Thuringia region of central Germany.  As the birthplace of composer Johann Sebastian Bach and nearest town to Wartburg Castle, Eisenach welcomes a significant number of tourists (mostly German) every year.  Watching tour busses navigate the narrow, perilously steep roads near the town center is nerve wracking indeed!

Visitors can easily walk through Eisenach for hours perusing outdoor markets (see above), taking in museums, visiting churches, and¬†enjoying fountains.¬† During the summer months, Eisenach can get quite toasty warm.¬† Air conditioning is¬†not a common amenity, leaving sightseers to find other ways of cooling off.¬† Thankfully, Eisenach¬†cafes and restaurants take “Eis,” or ice cream, to whole new levels.

Crowded Earth Kitchen is sharing ideas instead of recipes for you today.¬†¬†Once you take a look at the photos from our ice cream adventures below, I don’t think you’ll mind.¬† All you need¬†are ice cream and toppings (fresh fruit is a must!) from your local market, and a little imagination.¬†Have fun cooling off deliciously!

 

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Traditional Spaghetti Eis: Vanilla ice cream piped in the shape of spaghetti noodles, topped with strawberry slices and coconut shavings

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Chocolate Banana Spaghetti Eis

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Amaretto Eis: Vanilla Spaghetti Eis topped with amaretti cookies, chopped walnuts, coconut shavings, and a drizzle of amaretto liqueur (sigh…)

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Butterfly Eis for half-pint visitors

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Semi-creepy clown eis for half-pint visitors and eccentric adults!