Superhero Jello – Boom Pow!

My kid’s school is having a party tonight and I decided that I was going to try my hand at layered jello. How hard could it be?

I am also on maternity leave and since we only have one car, I am at home. I decided that I was going to make a dish to bring with the stuff we had on hand. My first thought was jello because I usually have a few different colors. The party was superhero themed, so I turned to the internet for inspiration. I came across this picture of comic book style jello.

Way to go that mom for throwing an awesome photo perfect party.

Anyway, I rummaged through my jello and found that I indeed had blue, yellow, and red. I wasn’t sure how to go about the white layer, so I turned to YouTube and watched this lady’s video.

Turns out you need gelatin and sweetened condensed milk. I always keep a can of condensed or evaporated milk for pumpkin pie and I was in luck.

I assembled my ingredients and was ready to go.

Basic recipe for each layer is as follows:

Jello layer:

  • 1 packet of gelatin
  • 1/2 c cold water
  • 3oz packet of jello
  • 1 1/2 c boiling water

White layer:

  • 1/2 c cold water
  • 2 packets of gelatin
  • 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 c boiling water

White layer makes 3 1/4 cups. Divide this evenly for the number of layers needed and increase recipe for number of layers. I only needed 2 layers, so I made one batch and reserved 1 c for each layer.

Items needed:

  • Pan, cups, or mold
  • Bowls… all the bowls
  • Whisk
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups
  • Spray oil (I used coconut)
  • Mesh Strainer

Each color needs about 30-45 minutes to set before adding a new layer. It was about noon, so I got started.

I greased the pan with coconut oil and spread it around with paper towels so that it was greased, but not greasy. I decided to start with red because I wanted it to be on the top when flipped. Made the jello, got fancy with the strainer to reduce the amount of bubbles in my layer. You could probably skip this and just let it sit or just pop them.

I let the layer set for 45 minutes. This wasn’t necessary, I think I could have done 30 minutes if the layer was chilled beforehand. However, I spent this time working on my white layer. Assembled the items for a photo and noticed the date on the can was BEST BEFORE 31 MAY 2014…

Decided to consult the internet and found that I was not the first one to have this issue.

Read a few articles and found that yes, it does expire, but that you can still cook with it because all that really happens is the color changes to more of a caramel color. So, I decided to go with it. I quickly realized that color was important to me and the smell wasn’t great. I tasted it and it didn’t taste bad, but it wouldn’t have been that lovely paper white color I was going for and I didn’t want to poison everyone. I considered my options. I could have no white layer, but that’s no fun, so I decided to try and make my own white layer using science and my brain.

 

I pulled out my milk, gently heated 2 1/2 cups on a non-stick pan and added 1/2 c sugar. There was 10 minutes left on the clock, so I just stirred it on a low heat until it was about time to take out the jello. I tasted it and oooooh was it sweet. I could have gone with half the sugar easy. Oh well, the kids’ll love it. I combined 1/2 cup cold milk with 2 packets of gelatin, whisked it, and folded in the hot milk, then separated it into equal portions.

Took the pan out and added the white layer. Well fuck, it melted the jello and turned pink.

I put it in the fridge and had resigned myself to a dreaded Pinterest fail. Then I thought, no! that’s not going to happen to me! I pulled it out of the fridge, poured out the milk layer, and literally washed it off with cold water until all the milk had come off. I patted the layer dry gently with paper towels and returned it to the fridge to harden again. I had about 1 3/4 cup of milk left, so I split them again and put half the milk in the fridge. I set a timer for 20 minutes.

After 2o minutes, the red layer was solid again and the milk layer was cool. I added the very thin layer to the red layer and set the timer for 30 minutes.

During this time I made the yellow layer because I wanted to make sure it was cool by the time the white layer came out. Unfortunately, I realized that I had added too much water, so I added more water and put it in some containers for my kid’s lunch.

Thankfully, I had another yellow jello, so I started over again and managed not to fuck it up. I added the yellow layer after the white had set. Set the timer for 40 minutes.

I was getting the blue layer ready. I had actually used a portion of this big box of blue for another creation and so it was not a fresh box. Once I added the packet to the gelatin water mix I noticed a peculiar purple tint. Fuck! It was purple! I put the wrong color back in the wrong box and had no blue jello! I added more water and made more jello for my kid’s lunch.

Did I let this get me down? Fuck no! At this point I felt I could do anything. SCIENCE bitches! I took 2 packets of  gelatin, 1/2 c apple juice, 1/4 c sugar, 1 1/2 cups boiling water, and 3 drops neon blue food coloring. BOOM POW, I had created blue jello!

I learned a lot in this exercise or rather, I learned a lot about what not to do. I am waiting for the whole thing to set and I am not convinced that I will be able to bring it with me to the party, but I tried.

Ok, jello set. Cut the round with a knife and then placed it in a hot water bath… too long, but not something I couldn’t salvage. I turned it over on a dish and cleaned the melted bits away. I am somewhat happy with it. I unfortunately do not have a serving spoon, so I am just going to bring a regular spoon. I should really get one of those.

 

 

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Pumpkin Pie!

A couple of boxes ago I got a sugar pumpkin. Instantly I knew it was destined to be a pie. I sat it on my shelf for a month and once Thanksgiving rolled around I took it down and cooked it.

When I was a girl my mom and I opened up one of her presidential cookbooks from the 1800s and found a recipe for pumpkin pie. We had a pumpkin and so we decided to go for it. It was the best pumpkin pie I had ever tasted. It still is. I am not sure it is possible to make one better, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

I have made it with regular Halloween type pumpkins and I have noticed little difference. Some suggest adding more sugar for regular pumpkins, but I’ll leave that up to you.

What you’ll need:
Sugar pumpkin
1 can evaporated milk
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
Clove
Nutmeg
Ginger
Allspice or mace or both
Cinnamon
Pie crust
Cooking spray

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Begin by cutting the pumpkin in half and removing the seeds. Place skin side up in a pan filled with an inch of water. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes or until flesh is easily pierced with a fork.

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Scoop out the flesh or peel off the skin, whichever is easier. Using either an immersion blender or a regular blender, blend pulp until smooth and silky.

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Each pumpkin will make approximately 3 cups of puree. Depending on how many pumpkins you roast, you may have more. Set aside 3 cups puree and either freeze or refrigerate remainder. Puree will keep for up to one year in the freezer or two weeks in the fridge.

Making the pie:
Combine 3 cups puree with remaining ingredients. Use about 1 tsp of each spice. You can also use pumpkin pie spice. I usually do a combination of both.

Grease the pie tin and line with crust. I don’t often make my crust, though feel free to do so.

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Pour pie filling into crust up to 3/4, but not all the way to the top. The pie will rise slightly.

This recipe makes 2 pies, so either make 2 or keep filling for up to 2 weeks and make a second pie.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and cook for 45 more minutes or until fork/toothpick comes out clean when pie is pierced in the center. Cover crust midway through to avoid burning.

Optional:
Using a mixer, combine heavy whipping cream and sugar. Whip on high until cream thickens. See how pretty it is!

Top pie with cream and serve warm!

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Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Soup’s On!

This week I made two kinds of soup, including the stock for both of them. I started making my own stock last year and I have yet to find a reason to go back to purchasing it. I save a couple hundred dollars a year by making it myself and the best part is that I know exactly what’s in it. I also feel like I am being more conservative with my waste. My method of making stock is the scrap method. I keep a container in my freezer and add all my vegetable scraps and/or meat bones. You can throw onion and garlic skins in as well! Once the container is full, I make a new batch of stock. Each batch yields about 4-5 quarts and keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer. Once the container is nearly full, I start to reserve the liquid from beans and other canned vegetables to add substance and flavor. I have saved pasta/potato/sweet potato water and that works well also.

Vegetable Stock

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To start use a large pot and heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the contents of the container to the pot and cook for about 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

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Add 5 quarts of water to the pot as well as your liquid reserves. Left over pasta sauce, tomato paste, or salsa works well as a base. Add some seasoning. I used salt, pepper, oregano, paprika, and onion powder.

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Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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To strain, remove large pieces and transfer from one container to another 2-3 times or until strainer is clean.

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This batch yielded 16 cups or 4 quarts of liquid.

Sweet Potato Leek Soup

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I used this stock to make my Sweet Potato Leek Soup.

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Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable stock
2 yams skinned
2 leeks
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tsp ground sage
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter

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Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot. Saute the leek until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the sweet potato, liquid, and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

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Strain liquid and add 1 cup liquid back to the solids. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add liquid until the soup is the desired consistency. I used all the liquid, but if there are leftovers, reserve for a future recipe.

Chicken Noodle Soup

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Last but not least, I made a chicken noodle soup. I made a simple broth using the chicken and vegetable scraps from these ingredients.

Ingredients:
4-6 oz chicken
1-2 quarts water
1 leek
1/2 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup mini spaghetti noodles
Basil
Oregano
Rosemary
Salt
Pepper

Chop vegetables and blanch until tender and liquid is reduced. Set aside.

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Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Add chicken and vegetable scraps. Add salt and pepper. At a light boil, cook chicken for 10 minutes or until juice runs clear when chicken is pierced.

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While chicken is cooking, cook noodles as until aldente; approximately 8 minutes.

Remove chicken and chop into bite size pieces. Remove the solids and filter the broth.

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Return to stove. Add chicken, vegetables, noodles, spices, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes.

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It’s Fall! Let the rain and comfort food commence

As promised in my previous post, here is the result from my last box. James and I started a diet, so the below is also low fat and low cal.

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Roasted Chicken with Smashed Red Potatoes. The potatoes were pretty excellent. I took my own photos of the process, but they looked like the ones already on the recipe so you should check it out. One tip is that they might mash into separate pieces, but that’s ok, when they bake, they’ll stick back together when they crisp on the bottom.

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Grilled Salmon with Lemony Baby Broccoli, grapes and mini kiwis. Admittedly, this looks like a really small piece of salmon, but it’s a 4oz serving. One thing I like about being on a diet is that I get a daily reality check on my portion sizes. The broccoli came out nice, but I would leave off the red pepper flakes, it didn’t work. Now, let me take a minute to talk about these kiwis. How adorable are they? So tasty and teeny. I loved them paired with the grapes too. It was a very refreshing side dish. Lastly, the salmon marinade should be mentioned. It is the best and only marinade I will ever use for salmon for the rest of my days. 1 part teriyaki sauce and 1 part butter for 1 hour then grilled. That’s it.

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Grilled Lamb Chops with Lemon Radish Pilaf and Mixed Greens. I marinaded the lamb in coconut milk and Mediterranean spices. I like using coconut milk to marinade meats. It coats the meat nicely and then cooks off when you grill it. If a marinade calls for yogurt, skip it and try coconut milk instead. You’ll be glad you did.

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So, I was bad and didn’t plan my meals with my last box. I even got a pomegranate and I have been meaning to try a recipe for balsamic beets with basil and pomegranates. However I did not do that and I have basically squandered my lovely box of produce.

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The contents of this week’s box are pretty awesome.

Apples
Pears
Persimmons
Carrots
Leeks
Kiwis
Sweet potatoes
Lettuce
Kale
Sugar pie pumpkin

Recipes for this week
Sweet potato leek soup
Chicken noodle soup
Balsamic beets with basil and pomegranates
PUMPKIN PIE!

Kiwis and Carrots and Radish Chips, Oh My!

1 bunch kale
1/2 lb green beans
1 bunch carrots
2 red potatoes
1 bunch radishes
1 bunch baby broccoli
4 pears
4 apples
2 oranges
1 container berry kiwis

The most interesting thing of note in this box is the berry kiwi, also known as the hardy kiwi. At first I thought that they had not given me my kiwis and instead had given me some weird unripened cranberry that somehow was not hard. In your box you get a list of the items you receive as well as a newsletter and some recipes to go with some items in your box. I had lost the sheet with the item on it and when I looked on the website for my delivery, I couldn’t find this strange berry. Google was no help because I just came up with pages of those red winter berries on wreaths and weird Dutch pies. The only thing left for me to do was open it up. I was surprised to find that inside was a little kiwi! The outside was smooth and so I popped the thing in my mouth, skin and all.  They were super delicious and would be excellent in a salad.

Recipes for this week:

Lamb skewers with orange couscous and basil carrots
Roasted chicken with baked red potatoes and green bean casserole
Grilled Salmon with lemony baby broccoli
Sweet curry kale chips
Radish, carrot, and beet chips (I have some beets left over from my last box and just bought a mandolin, so I am excited to try this!)

Stay tuned for recipes and pictures!

Farm Fresh to You

I woke up this morning with an idea to re-purpose this blog. I have decided that instead of writing about dieting, I would write about food and recipes. I consider myself to be somewhat adventurous in the kitchen. I also like taking pictures of my creations and spamming all of my friends with them. I recently got in the habit of taking photos of my farm share box and sending it to one of my friends in an attempt to convert a fellow foodie to the mystery box that is farm fresh to you. It occurred to me the other day that I would like others to see my farm boxes, but posting them on facebook is a new form of food porn that I just don’t want to subject unwilling participants to. It is bad enough that I take pictures of my meals and post them online.

The idea with this blog will be to post photos of my farm box, identify it’s contents, create recipes for these items, and post pictorial evidence of the result. I think that this would force me to not only use my entire box, but will also ensure that I cook at home more often and am more creative in my endeavors.

Below are photos I have already taken of my farm boxes and what I have done with them. I just want to say thank goodness for Instagram as without it, my food porn would be rated G.

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I will be getting a new box this week and then we can start our adventure. I am looking forward to it!

German Cooking: Cauliflower with Crispy Breadcrumbs

I was in the store the other day and I overheard two women discussing German cooking. They were looking at jars of sauerkraut and one woman said, “What is German cooking anyway”. The other woman shrugged and said that it was only sausages and sauerkraut. I wanted to interrupt them and set them straight, but decided against it.

Germans have so much to offer with their cooking. When I was in high school I was in the German Club and one of the things that I suggested we do is ask the ladies in the German Club of Santa Barbara to join up with us and teach us about traditional German food and share their culture with us. It was a real success. Every week we went over to our German teacher’s mother’s house and she and a few different ladies taught us not only how to cook, but about table manners and how to set a traditional German table. We would cook the food and then we would sit at the table and share the meal.

These women were great. I learned so much from them that I apply to my every day life. I learned simple things too like how to separate the yoke from the white or how to brown, but not burn butter. I learned the differences between a German, an English, and an American table setting. I also learned what to do with my silverware and what each element of the setting was used for. They, in a way, taught me how to be a lady. I think this type of education is necessary and often lost with each new generation. I definitely value the time I spent with these women.

Today when I was looking for something to make for lunch, I stumbled on a whole bunch of cauliflower and thought, what better way to use it than my favorite German recipe for cauliflower. I am sure it has a name, but I cannot remember it and the interwebs are failing me. It is essentially steamed cauliflower with browned butter and crispy breadcrumbs.

Cauliflower with Crispy Breadcrumbs
Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)
1 head, small (4″ dia) Cauliflower
3 tbsp 37% Light Buttery Spread
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Directions
1. Over high heat, steam cauliflower head (whole). Steam for 10 minutes or until fork easily goes through.

2. While cauliflower is steaming, brown butter over moderate heat (about 4 minutes). Once butter is ready, add breadcrumbs and cook until crispy (about 3 minutes)).

3. When ready to serve, quarter cauliflower and sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. (serve immediately)


I didn’t take a picture of mine, so I borrowed this one. You can view the blog post here: A Cat In the Kitchen

Married, now what?

I am now married. I stopped stressing out about losing weight before the wedding. I did lose 10 lbs from the diet, but I didn’t want to put more pressure on myself than I already had and I felt good, so I went with it. I ended up losing 5 more lbs the week of the wedding and gained it back on the honeymoon. What I learned from all of this is that it doesn’t matter how much you weigh. It is more important that the dress fit you well. So, I had it taken in and I looked fantastic. I think I would have liked to have worked on my arms a bit, but even that didn’t bother me that much.

Here’s me on my wedding day. (155lbs)

Now it is a couple of months after the wedding, the holidays are over, and I am eating a lot. Too much. I have gained 8 lbs since the wedding and am feeling really down on myself. Mostly because it is “that time of the month”, but still. I perform and I have seen pictures of me that I would prefer not end up on the internet. I have a belly and that has got to change. It is enough to make me want to starve myself and not eat. I KNOW, that is the worst thing you can do. It is just who wants to cry while they eat? It is not a good look.

It is diet time and it is also sit up time.

Organic Butternut Squash Leek Cauliflower Soup

I just made this soup for lunch today. It was so naturally creamy that I didn’t end up using the heavy cream that I bought for it. I recently purchased a farm share through Farm Fresh to You and in my box this week was a large butternut squash and 3 large leeks. Immediately I thought of making a soup. I used a recipe from Cooking Light and made some changes such as organic vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and adding cauliflower. I also ended up making more servings because the quash I had was much larger.

8 cups butternut squash (1 large)
6 cups leek (3 large leeks)
1/2 head cauliflower
1 whole head of roasted garlic
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
32 oz organic vegetable broth
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

8 servings, 1.5 cups per serving, 133 cal, 2.7 g fat, 4.4 fiber, 3.1 g protein

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap head in foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add leek; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic, squash, broth, salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until squash is tender. Puree squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over the opening in the blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture.

Almost lost 10lbs!

A few weeks back I finished the 2 week diet plan and am pleased to say that I lost 8 lbs. I took a break from the diet and actually over ate quite a bit, but didn’t gain much. We had been going out more since he will be eating indigenous foods over the next 6 weeks and will miss things like cheeseburgers and pizza. James left for Africa on Saturday, so I decided to cook more from the BHG New Dieter’s cookbook. The reason I decided to stick to the book and start counting my calories again was because on Saturday I hopped on the scale and saw that I had gained 4 lbs. I knew that most of it was water weight due to cyclical hindrances, but still, I needed to get a handle on it.

After two days of cooking and counting and the fact that the Communists ceased to be invading, I weighed myself this morning and am down to 159.5. One more lb and a half and I will have lost 10 lbs. It is cause for celebration. I still feel like a heffer though. I feel heavy in my own body, but I have nearly lost a dress size. Why that happens, I will never know.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever be happy with myself. Even when I returned from Europe after having lost 30 lbs, I wanted to lose 10 more. It was the best I had felt in years and it still wasn’t good enough. Then I went and gained 20lbs back. I will never be 135 again, I know that. I don’t even think I would want to. I was 135 in high school. I am a woman now and I want to look like one.

Enough of that, here is a recipe.

I cooked spaghetti squash for the first time for dinner last night. It was surprisingly easy and very tasty. I think more sauce would have been a good thing, but it was still plenty. I was so full that I almost couldn’t finish it. I made myself though because I was already under my calories for the day. With only 1200 calorie intake, I need to make sure to get all 1200.

Spaghetti Squash in Vodka Meat Sauce with Vegetables
5 cups spaghetti squash (1 large)
2 carrots
1 cup broccoli
1 clove garlic
1/2 onion
1/2 green pepper
1 cup vodka sauce
1/4 lb ground beef

353 calories, 10.4g fat, 3.2g saturated fat, 3.9g fiber, 26.3g protein