Kids in the Kitchen: Cake Mix Zucchini Bread

cakemix1Today’s recipe is easy enough for even the most pint-sized of kitchen helpers to manage, and makes a cheerful after-school snack! Best of all, this recipe goes from “idea” to “oven” in just a minute or two, making it perfect for this crazy-busy time of year. Enjoy! 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

Jelly Bean Brittle

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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!

Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookies

heart-cookies

Nothing says “I love you” or “I value your friendship” like something homemade and delicious! Why not whip up a batch of these luscious cookies and brighten someone’s day?!

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter, softened Continue reading

Weeknight Spaghetti Bake

win_20161005_192041Think lasagna, but simpler to prepare. If you can boil spaghetti noodles, you can make Weeknight Spaghetti Bake successfully! Squares of this one dish meal can be enjoyed on their own or served with a crisp green salad. This dish freezes well, too – perfect for busy weekday lunches!

Ingredients (Makes 1 large pan, serves 8 – 12)

1 pound box of spaghetti noodles

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup olives, sliced mushrooms, and/or diced peppers (your preference)

1 pound lean ground beef

4 cups spaghetti sauce (homemade or store-bought)

2 cups shredded mozzarella and/or mild cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper

win_20161005_164553Directions

Step 1) Brown ground beef. Drain, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2) Cook spaghetti noodles to al dente, according to package directions. Drain well. Toss spaghetti noodles with egg and parmesan cheese. Transfer spaghetti noodle mixture to a greased, 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Spread noodles evenly over bottom of pan.

win_20161005_165219Step 3) Use a teaspoon to spread ricotta cheese over the spaghetti noodles. Top with olives, sliced mushrooms, and or diced peppers, and sprinkle with crushed, dried oregano.

Step 4) Next, top the ricotta and vegetables with ground beef. Pour sauce over the ground beef, making sure to coat the entire pan evenly with sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

win_20161005_165712Step 5) After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven. Remove foil and sprinkle shredded cheese over the entire pan. Return pan (uncovered) to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Step 6) Allow Weeknight Spaghetti Bake to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. Enjoy!

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