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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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

Mr. Pita by Sara Lee

For whatever reason, I cannot find an image of Sara Lee’s Mr. Pita to show you, but this is the best pita ever.

Normally commercially prepared pita bread is anywhere from 130 – 170 calories. Sara Lee’s pita bread is 90 calories for white and 80 calories for wheat. This is for the entire pita, not half like some other fakers out there. I discovered this amazing wonder at my last trip to the grocery store. I walked up to the pita section and I see this lady grabbing handfuls of bags of this pita. She had to have grabbed 20 bags of pitas. I thought, wow, this lady means business. So I waited till she was done and checked out the package to see what was so special about them. I was amazed at how low in calorie they were and grabbed a couple bags for myself. It is a good thing there were some left! I was so pleased that I almost followed her around the rest of the store to see what else she picked out.

The pita itself did not lose any of it’s deliciousness in the reduction of calories. It doesn’t taste any different to me than any other brand out there. I highly recommend it to you and would not personally buy another brand now that I have found this flat bready goodness.

I have made some lovely pita pizzas that I have been very pleased with.

Cheeseburger Pita Pizza
1 pita
1/8 lb ground beef
4 mushrooms
1 slice bacon
2 slices American cheese
1/2 tsp minced onion
1 tsp ketchup

363 calories, 16.3 fat, 7.8 g sat. fat, 1.4 g fiber, 31.5 g protein

Garlic Pita Naan
1 pita
1 tbsp garlic paste
1/2 tsp minced onion
1/2 tsp parsley
cooking spray

95 calories, 1 g fat, 18.6 g carbs, <1 g fiber, 3.1 g protein

I made the garlic naan recipe last night. It was a surprisingly perfect addition to my curry and was the inspiration for this post.

I’m Hungry

Well, yes Dear, it’s a diet.

I was having my lunch, which included a whole wheat toasted cheese sandwich and Italian meatball soup (369 calories) and I read on Calorie Count.com the title of someone’s post was I’m Hungry. The only thing I kept thinking was, well, that’s good, you’re doing it right. I have lost a few pounds and since I started being serious about the amount of calories I am supposed to be eating, I admit, I have been going to bed hungry. I am in no way starving, but I have to deal with it. I mean I am going to make mistakes, anyone would when going through a lifestyle change, and anything is better than doing nothing, but I have to accept that I am going to be going to bed hungry for a while. When I see the number on the scale go down, it is completely worth it.

I started using Calorie Count.com as a dieting source back when I was at my heaviest in 2007. I really like a lot of the features and it is a good source of information with a lot of community features. The best part is that it is free. I paid for Weight Watchers and I did lose 10 lbs until I plateaued, but I stopped because spending the money was not enough of a motivating factor to get me to really take advantage of it. Calorie count is great because I don’t lose anything, other than weight, if I don’t use it. It is a great resource because it allows you to not only track your calories, but know how well you are doing nutritionally and gives you the information in multiple different ways: pie charts, graphs, personal recipe nutrition labels, and even grades.

However, all that withstanding, the only thing that helped me really lose weight is portion control and activity. It wasn’t until I moved to Europe and lived without a car on the 4th floor with only stairs did I lose weight. I didn’t even count calories. I was there 6 months and I lost 30 lbs. However, we can’t all up and go to Europe. I was also a student and couldn’t afford things like meat very often. I also couldn’t afford to go out to eat very often. I was also not used to their store hours and products, so if I forgot to go to the store to buy food for dinner, I didn’t eat and if I did it was whatever I had like nutella and walnuts or an egg. Since I was not familiar with the products I cooked with mostly things I could identify like vegetables and made the rest from scratch. Oh yes, I had my indulgences like french fries at least once a week smothered in mayonnaise and curry ketchup, but I walked everywhere and rode my bike when it was too far to walk. That and everything was within a 20 minute walk from where I lived.

When I came back to the states I couldn’t simply continue my lifestyle. I had to drive 45 minutes from where I lived just to get to work. Everything is so spread out here, you almost have to have a car. It is nearly 2 years later and I am right back where I started in 2007. I am fighting it though. Gaining 25 lbs in the first year back was hard. Losing it all again I have to accept will be even harder, but I am going to do it.

Milestones

I lost 3 lbs since I started my 1200 calorie diet last week. This is very exciting. I hope I can keep this momentum up.

I went shooting today and was pleased to discover that you burn 190 calories per hour shooting guns. So it supplemented the chicken philly and fries I had after going to the range. It is good to know that I can continue the cheese steak ritual even though I am on a diet. Though next time I could probably do without the fries.

BHG New Dieter’s Cookbook

I am currently using the Better Homes & Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook to get most of my recipes. I spent a good amount of time in the bookstore looking over it before I bought it. I liked that all of the entrees were between 200-300 calories and all of the sides were 100-150 calories. I also liked that most of the entree recipes were enough food to fill you without the sides and most of the sides looked like they would make good entrees. I also liked that every recipe had a picture. Not just any picture, but a picture that looked appetizing.

I bought the book, picked a recipe, and went home and made it. I chose the Spinach Lasagna Rolls that were calculated at 214 calories per roll. I changed a few things. I used whole wheat noodles, fresh spinach, fat-free cottage cheese, no tomato sauce, no nutmeg, and added 2 sweet italian sausage links. I also thought that since it was so low in calories that I would have 2 rolls instead of 1. Though I have to say, 1 roll would have been enough especially since I served it with broccoli and mozzarella cheese.

My Version with Nutrition Info

It came out so good and I was very pleased that I bought the book.