Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ribbon Jello

In my first year of blog keeping, I wrote about how I suck at making jello.    Yes, it's true....despite being an award winning cook and instructor and having recipes published in national magazines and having a recipe featured in Molly O'Neill's One Big Table, I have big trouble when it comes to making jello.  Go ahead - say it....she can't even boil water!  Which is all you have to do to make jello, but I have managed to screw it up big time.   So, I kep trying, and over the course of the past few years, I have worked on my jello technique.  

Here's what I have learned:
  • It is really important to use a mold strictly designed for jello - I've tried pudding molds and other containers, but if the jello is too tall or has too wide of a base, the jello will collapse on itself or spread out.  
  • Don't use Bundt pans!  Even though the shape is right, the metal tends to stay cold too long compared to the open base, making it difficult to unstick from the pan.   The metal transfers heat too easily and one time I melted a pan of jello while trying to heat it in some warm water to get it to release.    
  • I have had wonderful results with vintage Tupperware jello molds - they unmold beautifully.  They have a middle piece that can be removed to help release the vacuum that is created by a properly set gelatin.   Also, they have a lid so it's easy to transport an unmolded creation to your destination.
  • Use a light coating of unflavored cooking spray on the mold before adding the gelatin to insure an easy release.  
  • Do you have jello mold phobia?  Make jello in a clear glass truffle bowl instead.  
  • Is jello made from horses hooves?   According to Snopes, no, but it's not technically something vegetarians would want to eat.   There are vegetarian gelatins out there, but I haven't tried them yet.
  • For picnics, be sure to keep it cool.  My stunning and patriotic red, white and blue 4th of July jello creation melted into a puddle before my very eyes one 100F  Independence day many summers ago.   I was not feeling "proud to be an American" on that day, for sure.  Don't let this happen to you!  Set your jello plate on a pan of ice to keep it cool.  Make Lee Greenwood proud.

On the subject of Jello molds.....

While there are vintage Tupperware collectors that are willing to pay big bucks for the stuff, I have had great luck finding jello molds at garage sales, church rummage sales etc.   It's rare to find all the pieces together at a garage sale, just buy the part that's there and eventually, you will find the other related accoutrement at another sale, have no fear! 

I was on the prowl for this mold:

and my sister Sandy and I simultaneously found them and bought them on the same Saturday of garage saling a few years ago, within a half hour of each other.   I called her to tell her the news that I found one at the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Store - only to find that she had just bought the same one for me at a garage sale in Warren, 50 miles away!  She and I often prowl garage sales for each other for things we are looking for....for me, it's jello molds and canning jars.  For her, it's  Detroit Tigers Christmas ornaments.    Both were missing the lids, but Sandy found one in the "FREE" box a few weeks later at the St.  Malachy Polish Festival.   

While I love this mold, it does make a huge quantity of jello.   While cleaning out my parents house to get it ready to sell, Sandy and I found this smaller Tupperware mold:

It's got center pieces that can be swapped out for the particular holiday.   Grandma always made jello for her grandbabies.  In her honor this Easter, I will use it with the tulip insert to make Ribbon Jello, which is a great recipe for spring. 

Jello Mold Mistress' Ribbon Jello
Ribbon jello isn't hard to make, but it's a day long affair, best combined with other tasks that have you tied to the kitchen anyway, such as bread making or pie baking.    That's why it's great for a holiday like Easter, made with spring like colors like lemon, strawberry, lime, orange and the blue flavor - I think it is technically supposed to be raspberry, but I call it "blue flavor".

Ribbon Jello
printer friendly

6-1/4 cups boiling water, divided
5 pkg. (4-serving size each) gelatin, any 5 different flavors, divided
1 cup vanilla lowfat yogurt, divided

With a whisk, stir 1-1/4 cups boiling water into 1 pkg. gelatin in a container  at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved.  If you have an electric tea kettle, it's quick and easy to make boiling water fast.  I have found that the tall Ziploc plastic food storage containers are great for this task.   Pour about half of the dissolved gelatin into an 8-cup ring mold sprayed with cooking spray or a glass bowl. Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until set but not firm (gelatin should stick to finger when touched). Refrigerate remaining gelatin in bowl about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites). Gradually stir in 3 Tbsp. of the vanilla yogurt. Spoon over gelatin in mold. Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until gelatin is set but not firm (gelatin should stick to finger when touched).

REPEAT process with each remaining gelatin flavor. (Be sure to cool dissolved gelatin to room temperature before pouring into mold.) Refrigerate gelatin as directed to create a total of 10 alternating clear and creamy gelatin layers.

REFRIGERATE 2 hours or until firm. Unmold. Cut into 16 slices to serve. Store leftover gelatin in refrigerator.
For further inspiration, check out this blog Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn for all things jello. If in upstate NY, pay a visit to the Jell-o Gallery. (fun fact:  jello is spelled correctly with the dash in it)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge April: Dill

Dill from "To Kill a Mockingbird"

They say April showers bring May flowers, but here in Michigan it's likely to be snow showers.   It's official - I am sick of winter.   It's cold here and tonight on my way home it was snowing this evening.   I've had enough, and I am hoping the remedy will be dill.

To me, dill tastes like summertime and reminds me of pickle making.   I have a bottle of dill weed in my spice rack, and also some dill seeds.   Did you know if you can't find dill plants with the flowers (which are called umbels) when making pickles, you can substitute dill seeds instead?   About 1 teaspoon of the seeds can be used for 1 dill umbel.   I plan on making lots of pickles again this summer - I am really pleased with the pickle recipe I came up with last summer that tastes just like my favorite brand of McClure's pickles.   So, while I am pining away for summer dill, I am hoping my spice rack will remind me what it tastes like.

Please post your dill recipes no earlier than April 16 and no later than April 22 to be included in this month's round up.   P.S.  For the "To Kill A Mockingbird" fans out there - did you know that the character Dill was based on Harper Lee's childhood friend Truman Capote?  And in the movie, Boo Radley was played by a young Robert Duvall?  If you haven't read the book since junior high, check it out of the library and read it as an adult.  I was shocked at how good it is....still!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge March Round Up: Cardamom

A total of 20 of us turned out for cardamom this month, include a couple of cardamom newbies.  Check it out:

prospect: the pantry
Lovely sounding pear cardamom an equally lovely ice cream dish to go along with a pair of cardamom quick breads

snowflake kitchen
Sour cream cardamom apple cake that made me have to check out what canned shredded apples are....surprisingly, they are pretty much the same recipe as my spiced apple rings that I made last fall...except the apples are shredded.   It got me thinking that maybe swapping out the cloves in shredded apples or apple rings might be a very interesting canning experiment for next fall.

jonski blogski
What Tricia is going to make as soon as her kitchen is back together can be found here.  Please give us a status report on your kitchen and your cardamom and tell us how they both turned out....

oh, briggsy
How about a little coriander with your cardamom?  Check out the chicken buttermilk curry and learn about black vs. green cardamom to boot!

fruitcake or nuts
These cardamom gingersnaps sound fantastic....I love gingersnaps.  Can't wait to try them.

notes from a country girl living in the city
Who says procrastination doesn't lead to greatness?  Check out these cardamom rolls....and confidential to the Hippie:  "Googled" is a verb.

intellectual relish
Dean brings us a masala trio while warning us about white cardamom.  I've got a hankering for a chai just by reading about it.

dog hill kitchen
Another blogger trying out the black cardamom in Maggie's black cardamom cod

grow and resist
You call it cardamom purple rice pudding I call it pretty in pink, which reminds me of a song.  Taking a page out of briggsy's book, I gotta add some music to this blog post....

just another day on the farm
A cardamom virgin brings us some spectacular sounding cardamom cookies.

chez hates
I can see transforming this yummy sounding spicy Indian chicken curry into my latest pressure cooker creation.

thinking out loud
Another cardamom virgin tries it out in cold strawberry soup  which sounds interesting, but it wasn't a family favorite. Oh well, more for mom!

tales from the house on the corner
A cardamom infused self saucing orange cake is a terrific way to use up the last of the winter citrus

la germaine organisee
I'd love to try orange, cranberry and cardamom chicken - does anyone know what the U.S. equivalent of 'cooking cream' is?

put a lid on it
swedish cardamom breakfast bread - anything with a pound of butter has got to be good!

eating floyd
Two tries - a carrot halva and a chicken korma from an underused spice on her spice rack.  That's what the Spice Rack Challenge is all about!

tracy's living cookbook
From our newest contender and my sister Michigan homegirl comes the Moosewood's cardamom coffee cake.   If you start a Moosewood challenge, I am in - but I am a Moosewood purist and only own the original Mollie Katzen cookbook.

a million grandmas
A cardamom scented chicken with ginger and garlic is a great remedy for the other recipe that resulted in that "ugly brown pile"

mothers kitchen
I called it pulla, but you are right Nicole, the Yoopers call it "nisu", and I should  have called it as I knew it.  But both are the same name for Finnish cardamom bread.

arctic garden studio
Speaking of the Finlanders....Nicole's nisu is a lot more photogenic than mine!

That's all for this month....tune in Friday for April's challenge.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge March: Cardamom Bread

For this month's challenge, I tried a recipe for a Finnish cardamom bread called "Pulla".  It is a sweet eggy bread, similar to challah, and it has the added zing of crushed cardamom seeds.   I bought whole cardamom seed pods at the People's Food Co-op in Ann Arbor, because I read somewhere that the crushed cardamom seeds provide an interesting burst of flavor instead of ground cardamom.   I highly recommend trying to find cardamom seeds for this recipe.  I had some Swedish sugar pearls that I used to top the bread.

Pulla BRead

1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 beaten egg (for glaze)
Granulated sugar (or Swedish sugar pearls) for sprinkling

Mix yeast, warm water and 1/2 teaspoon sugar until yeast dissolves. Set aside. Heat milk in a microwave over low heat until small bubbles appear along the edges. Cool to about 120F. Add beaten eggs, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, salt, cardamom and 3 cups flour. Beat well. Add butter; beat well. Add yeast mixture. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups flour in three additions, mixing well after each addition, until dough has a soft to medium consistency. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding as little additional flour as possible.   Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 1 to 2 hours. Punch down dough and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope. Braid 3 ropes together to form a loaf. Repeat with remaining 3 ropes. Place loaves on a greased baking sheet or in greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover with a cloth and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F.   Brush loaves with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar. Bake 25 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom. Invert from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

ABC Survey

Lovingly recycled from Patti's Blog...

A - Age: 47

B - Bed size: King
C - Chore you hate: cleaning out the fridge
D - Don’t eat: liver
E - Essential start-your-day item: coffee
F - Favorite board game: Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit
G - Gold or Silver: Both
H - Height: 5'8"
I - Instruments you play: guitar, piano (both not played well)
J - Job title: Engineering Supervisor
K - Kid(s):  yes, two
L - Love or lust: both
M - Mom’s name: Angela
N - Nicknames Cyn
O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: 3 ankle surgeries, 2 childbirth, 1 reset of broken nose, 1 bladder infection and 1 pneumonia as a baby
P - Pants or pantyhose: pants
Q - Favorite Movie Quote:  "Jake: How often does the train go by? Elwood: So often that you won't even notice it."
R - Right or left handed: Right.
S - Siblings: 2
T - Time you wake up: 5:20 am
U - Underwear: old lady style
V - Vegetable favorite: beets or spinach
W - Ways you run late: I always underestimate how long it will take to do something
X - X-rays you’ve had: a ton
Y - Yummy food you make: pickles
Z - Zoo favorite: penguins

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Ask Moms Kitchen - food processor, pectin and camping

Do we wait anymore for the postman to bring us answers to all of our burning questions?   All I seem to get is junk mail these days.    But I do wait eagerly for comments to my blog posts.   And occasionally, someone asks a question.   So, here are some answers.....

Any advice on what to look for in a food processor? Or do you use your beloved Kitchen Aid mixer and call it a day?

There are people that use their food processors all the time.   I am not one of them - I prefer to knead bread by hand, and make pastry crust by hand, too.   However, there are certain jobs where the food processor is indispensable - and that's for slicing and grating large amounts of food.   I've owned a Cuisinart and a Kitchen Aid food processor (there are no other brands worth buying, in my book) and I much prefer the Kitchen Aid.   If you monitor the Macy's sales, you can find some good deals on them - I snagged mine for about $100.  That being said, you could use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a slicer attachment, but it takes longer to set up. 

Can you please tell me how much of your home-made pectin to use in a typical jam recipe (one that would otherwise require bought pectin)

Yes, you can find the ratios for typical jam recipes in this blog post.  Also, a great book of jam and jelly recipes that don't require boxed pectin is Linda Ziedrich's Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves, and for ideas on flavor combinations, or just fantasizing about taking a trip to France, I like to browse Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures.  However, that book isn't really user friendly. 

I would love to see your kaper chart and schedule from Girl Scout camping. I camp with my girls quite a bit, but this year am coordinating a camp trip for the entire service unit (45 girls) and would love to see what worked for others. I would also like to see the egg on a stick info.

Sure!  For those not involved in Girl Scouting, a kaper chart is used to divide up camp duties, otherwise you might end up with what I like to call a "Lord Of The Flies" situation, where there is youth anarchy and no one has fun or eats anything or gets their tent set up.  I made my Kaper Chart back when my Scouts were they are Seniors and they have to figure things out for themselves.   I wrote this post about Girl Scout camping a while reminds me that I should write about Boy Scout camping sometime....I have a Boy Scout, too.   Boy Scout camping is similar to Girl Scout camping in that there is plenty of opportunity for a "Lord of the Flies" situations, but Boy Scout camp usually involves more axes and knives, which adds a greater degree of parental angst.   But it's fun, too! The adult leader Boy Scout magazine has lots of great info and recipes for camping...check it out

To make an egg on a stick, here is what you do:

  • First, since I know you are using Leave No Trace principles as a good Girl Scout are not using an actual stick but a metal marshmallow roaster stick.   That's good, because it makes egg on a stick work even better.  
  •  Use older eggs because fresh eggs are hard to peel.  Carefully poke a hole in each end with tip of a pocket knife. Stick the skewer straight through the egg longways through the holes.  
  •  Keeping the stick parallel to the ground (if pointed up or down it will slide), roast it over the coals like a marshmallow, rotating it to cook evenly.  You can pull the stick out to check for doneness - hard or soft cooked
  • When it is done to your liking, carefully remove from the stick (it will be hot) and when it has cooled enough to touch, peel and eat.
Your scouts will be amazed!  Have fun....

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Under Pressure

Today, I taught a pressure cooking class at Big George's in Ann Arbor. It's a great thing to do on a rainy dreary midwinter day. The first recipe I demonstrated is Beef Monterey, which is a southwest variant on swiss steak. It's quick and easy for a weekday dinner. Saffron Risotto with vegetables is beautifully colored, especially cheery on a gray day like today. To make it into a meal, add some cubed chicken with the rice or some shrimp at the end. Risotto in the pressure cooker is so easy - it literally takes 5 minutes to do. No standing by the stove and stirring for 45 minutes! It's probably the number one reason to get a pressure cooker. I'm devoted to my Kuhn Rikon Duromatic pressure cookers (I own two), because they are beautifully built. Alas, they are spendy! I've written about my love of Swiss kitchen gadgets before, but I'll let you in on a little secret. I bought a Phillipe Richard pressure cooker at J.C. Penney for $20 and it worked splendidly. I'd suggest using a flame tamer with a cheaper cooker to help evenly disperse the heat. A flame tamer is a metal disk that goes between the flame and your pot.

Beef Monterey

1 T. olive oil
¼ c. flour
Salt and pepper
1 top round beef steak, approx.. 1 ¼ lb, cut into 4 serving size pieces
1 T red wine vinegar
1 medium onion, sliced pole to pole
2 poblano peppers
1 10 oz. can tomatoes with peppers
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced

In uncovered pressure cooker, heat oil on medium high heat Combine flour, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag. Add beef and shake so meat is evenly coated in flour, and add beef to cooker and sear quickly on both sizes until browned. Remove meat from pan and set aside.

Deglaze the pan with vinegar, add onion and pepper and cook for a minute or so. Add tomatoes, including juice. Return beef to the pan . Cover cooker and bring to full pressure (15 lbs) over high heat. Lower heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 20 minutes. Release pressure using the quick method, open the cooker and remove the meat, cook sauce uncovered until it has thickened slightly, 7 – 9 minutes. Top meat with sauce and garnish with cilantro. Serves 4

World’s Easiest Risotto

The basic recipe
1 T. olive oil
1 ½ c. arborio rice
3 ½-4 c. stock
¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Basic method – heat the oil in the open cooker, add rice stirring to coat with oil, add 3 ½ c. stock. Cover, bring to low pressure (12 lbs) over high heat , lower heat to just maintain pressure. High pressure(15 lbs) is okay if that is the only option with the cooker. Cook for 5 minutes, release pressure using the quick method, and open the cooker. Add Parmesan and heat uncovered until desired consistency, adding stock if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste Makes 4 main dish servings (or 6 side dish)

Today’s variation
I made Saffron Risotto with Vegetables – I added ½ c. chopped leeks, ¼ t saffron to oil during the rice step, I used chicken stock and I added a cup of peas during the Parmesan step