Saturday, June 27, 2009

It’s All About the Jiggle



I have a thing for jello: I stash Jello fruit cups next to my bed to devour when the craving strikes at night and you know that commercial? The one where they have someone sucking the jello from the cup?  Not lady like I know, but they could have got that idea from me because many  times I forget to bring my spoon.  Having a reputation to keep, real or imagined, I felt the need to elevate myself to jello connoisseur and up the bar on my jello game.  My research has shown that jello can be both fun and gorgeous.  The real beauty is that it's easy to make and gelatin lends itself to creativity.  Nearly any cocktail, soda, fruit juice can be turned solid just by adding a gelatin, pouring into a mold and chilled in the fridge.  Take all the care you would as if you were mixing a great cocktail and remember that the longer the gel sits in the fridge the firmer they get.  They also soften a little as they sit at room temperature.  Try using silicone ice cube trays and slicing in half on the diagonal to make an elegant presentation.  The easy way to prepare is to pour gelatin mixture into plastic wrap lined baking pans and once set.  Firm jell shots can be picked up like appetizers with the fingers. 

Blueberry  jello, uses fresh, beautiful blueberries in silicone ice tray for easy removal, slice on a diagonal to get your schmancy on.  I would make this without alcohol but  I'd like to note that this particular recipe for Blueberry Martini Jelly shots is actually made with Stoli blueberry vodka and simple syrup.

this Champagne Jello Terrine on the left is made with 4 cups fresh fruit in a loaf pan.  

The champagne here is Prosecco , French champagne's Italian cousin, which will give a different taste hint when combined with different foods.  Each bite of this Terrine will have a new taste.  The strawberry Rhubarb Terrine on the right is a traditional and wonderful pairing of tart and sweet.  Recipe from Elise.

I found this Go, team, go! Jello   to be such a clever and spirted party starter.  It is also called Broken Glass Jello or Stained Glass Jello is easy to make with flavored Jello, Knox unflavored gelatin and sweetened condensed milk.  This one is 2- 3oz boxes lemon and one 6 oz box grape.


Remember where we started?  I said it was all about the jiggle which brings me to this: delicious Champagne Boob.  Tee hee. It is a foamy champagne gelatin that is light and refreshing and happens to look ... like girl parts.  Calls for fruit as aer-I'm not going to spell that, but it is a small bit of citrus.  The entire thing comes together in a martini glass which has been sprayed with cooking spray.  You won't taste the spray and it allows for the release. If you don't wish to have this as aphrodisiac, just leave it in the martini glass. These are good when they are a little soft but you knew that didn't you?!  

 Baileys & Coffee & Jello cubes 

This recipe is adapted from Recipe Zaar original

3 pkgs 1/4 oz gelatin granules

very strong, hot coffee

5 T brown sugar

1 c. Baileys Irish Cream

1/2 c. whipping cream

This is a dish best made a day ahead.

  1. Prepare 2 packets jello using coffee to replace water
  2.  Add brown sugar and mix to dissolve, allow to dissolve
  3. Using an 8x8 pan, line with plastic wrap, fill with coffee jell and refrigerate for 3 hours
  4. Prepare remaining jell by dissolving in water
  5. Heat whipping cream until warm. Stir jello into whipping cream until dissolved. Add Baileys and combine
  6. Let cool, but don't let it set. Remove coffee jell from fridge and carefully pour the Baileys mixture onto the coffee jello.
  7. Return to fridge and chill for approx 6 hours or overnight
  8. Remove the Bailey's coffee jello with the plastic wrap from the container, sprinkle with coconut or powdered sugar.
  9. Cut into diagonal 1 inch cubes using a sharp, thin knife.  Serve immediately or return to fridge




Monday, June 22, 2009

Refresh - mint

Mint (Mentha herbs) plants (Lamiaceae or Labiatae) want to take over the world - I’m letting you in on the inside scoop here. These prolific, lovelies are my favorites to remove out of my garden without a care.  I give entire plants as gifts or use the parts without a concern about my loss. Mint tea is a wonderful  digestion aid which is something to keep in mind when you eat that disagreeable cuisine.  Also used as “women’s medicine” by natives(Ojibwe/Minnesota) - no, I will not are welcome.  Mint’s spunky taste can star in drinks, libations and all manner of dishes not to mention freshen breath and cleanse the palate between dishes.

Minty fresh makings
Using scissors, cut 4” mint stalks on a slant from tip down, or rip an entire plant mercilessly from the ground because you know it will make more.   

Creamy Mint-melon Popsicles
these are in ice candy bags

Insides, excluding seeds of 1 medium melon (honey dew, cantaloupe, )
handful of mint leaves, washed - no stems
3 T honey
1 T lime juice
1 c. unsweetened *strained yogurt 

Using 3/4 melon and mint, honey and lime juice, puree.  When smooth, add remaining melon and pulse to make smaller but visible chunks of melon, then add yogurt and stir in blender.  Pour into Ice Candy Bags, popsicle molds or ice cube tray.  Freeze for at least 4 hours.  Keeps 2 days.  An alternative to ice candy bags are the cone bags easily available in craft stores.
(*strained yogurt coffee filter in bottom of a colander and place inside another bowl, add yogurt and allow to drain for a couple of hours)

Tea; Mint flavor oils are discouraged by heat, better not to cook but add about 1/2 cup fresh packed leaves for 4 cups of boiling water.  Do not boil leaves, rather, pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for 5 minutes.  Dry mint leaf tea: allow to dry for about 2 weeks, use about 1 T. of crushed, dry leaves for each cup of water.  Add boiling water to tea, steep, don’t boil.  Mint tea does not reheat well.  

Infused (scented) Sugar: remove leaves from stalk and allow to dry for a day.  Add leaves to small batch of sugar in layers.  Allow to mature for a few days in tightly sealed container.  Strain and use in drinks, sprinkle on fruits, fruit salsas and desserts. Stir into chocolate icing for a mint-chocolate bang to that next chocolate cake you make.

Mint leaves mix well with fresh salads, chiffonade and toss with lettuces or vegetable/pasta/potato salads.  Rice salad: cool a cooked batch of rice (wild or brown is nice), toss with citrus-y dressing, top with sliced cucumber, wedges of tomato, crumbled feta cheese and freshly chopped mint. Rice salad is great with fish, chicken and other white meats. Pizzazz a recipe for warm Potato Salad: usually quietly partnered with parsley, use mint instead and balsamic vinegar, matchsticks of red bell pepper, red onion and garlic.  Of course you’ll use Olive oil and Kalamata Olives - won’t you? 

That Monarda plant aka bee balm,  the one that the butterflys love?  It’s a mint, which explains it’s ambitions to take over your garden, doesn’t it?  The washed leaves of the Monarda are excellent with fish, tomatoes raw or cooked and not minty cool to the palate.  

 If you must know, you can control the spread of this wild thing by planting it along with its pot, directly into the ground and encasing the spreading root system.  You’ll need to maintain those roots with scissors as necessary to keep invasion attempts in check.

Mint Give-Away
When gifting the plant, remove the scented love/hate-child  from the ground, trim roots to fit pot, add some chamomile plant or other  prolific upright flower to compliment, tie a ribbon, munch a leaf and say so long. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Father’s day is upon us and I think it’s the perfect time for ladies to pick up that tool they’ve wanted for themselves, hehehe but this has me thinking about BBQ and such and I wanted to share some uniqueness with you.  First off, BBQ - smar-B-Q, yeah, yeah - let’s talk about something SMOKIN!  That’s it - I want to talk about smoking your food.  Some already smoke their meats and that’s nice - here’s your cookie.  Ever smoke your potatoes?  It rocks!  You should try it.  Some ideas are to blanche your fries then smoke, blanche potatoes used in potato salads and smashies.  Smoke polenta, sweet potatoes, eggplant, Gnocchi and or rutabaga - whatever that is.  My point is try smoking something besides your beast and transform something regular into a delicacy.

You can infuse smoked flavors into eggs, also.  Eggs are porous and capable of absorbing flavor.  Eggs can be smoked but something else to do is; using raw eggs in the shell, rub with seasoning power like a hickory spice and wait 12 hours before cooking them.  Or, store with truffle mushrooms.  Try fresh herbs, citrus zests, jalapenos, miso, ground chili and of course you should experiment with the tastes you enjoy.  Imagine the possibilities! After the process use your cooked eggs in salads and enjoy as people wonder what is this unique flavor sensation.  All of this brings me back to tea... (after having to cut back on my coffee) use fruit woods or cedar planks in your smoker of course but try something different by adding 1/4 cup black tea leaves to your smoking embers ever half hour.  

What? You don't have a smoker?  Weeeelll now, let's talk!  The Alton Brown Flower Pot Smoker This baby doesn't take up much room and you can  toss it into storage when you're not using it.  This ceramic cooker will cost you less than $50, I know you're cheap.  hehe, me, too.  You can make this soon and use it on the Fourth!  Construction is a piece of cake but finding the parts is the important thing: think Home Depot for the terra cotta parts, Walgreens for heat element and Super stores for grill grates but it's likely that you have grill grates already at home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mud Wrestling

Remember how much fun it was to play in the mud when you were a kid?  Well, you have gotten older but it didn't stop being fun.  I'd like to share some fun I've had that is a little more mature but really, still just playing in the mud.  One "mud" I like to play with is just plain cement and one is hypertufa or tufa for short which weighs much less and appears more natural.  I've made projects with both of these that I'll show you and really enjoyed making them as well as displaying them in my garden and I hope you will too. Remember to use 100% pure Portland cement and not a product containing small amounts of it otherwise your mud wrestling will go bad and literally dissolve over time unless you put it where it is not exposed to the elements. The leaf in the photo is made from cement while the grot, more mud looking, is made from tufa.

When playing with cement or tufa, one could simply use an existing stepping stone 
and add tufa to the top and carve a relief and after sealing with a urethane, paint it.  I've seen the grots (grotesque faces) used for holding torches for the garden, torch cans, tikis and totem poles, plant containers and bird baths to name some.  I've also seen entire borders sculptured from tufa to resemble a mermaid swimming in an ocean with fish.  Adorn your tufa with natural elements of moss, shell, leaves, etc... Challenge yourself to do something wildly beyond these examples!  If you do - I'd love to hear about it
 and pictures are a plus!

To make a Grot(grotesque face):
  1. Find a place to work where your tufa won't be disturbed for 24 hours
  2. Think about what you'd like to make and gather anything that will go into/onto the tufa before it sets
  3. Whip up a batch of tufa. See video below.
  4. mold it around your plastic container (or container wrapped in plastic) at least 2 inches thick.
  5. allow to set up a while so that it's dried enough to scrape away at tufa 
  6. Imagine a face for your creation exaggerated angry eyes, rogue nose, growling mouth
  7. using a butter/putty knife, carve rough shape into tufa not real deep yet until you get the kind of face you want
  8. remove bits of tufa with butter knife to sculpt
  9. add more tufa to "bump out" features that you want prominent
  10. add glass eyes or use whatever accessory you've decided on
  11. Allow to dry 24 hours and then show off. 
I have made this leaf using patch cement instead of tufa.  You can use cement dyes or paint your finished leaf.  Metallic paints look fantastic.

list of what you'll need for hypertufa:

play sand for molding leaf
plastic bag to cover it
tub to mix hyper tufa ingredients
rubber gloves
safety goggles & dust mask
putty knife
1 part Portland cement
1 part sawdust (I used sand)
1 part perlite
mold release, veg oil, Pam
LEAF such as from Rhubarb 

Monday, June 8, 2009


My friend Ejay loves sushi and I told him that he could make it at home.  He thought I meant raw fish sushi...uh, no.  Sushi means seasoned rice, the other ingredients are up to you.  At my house we use scrambled eggs a la microwave oven, cream cheese, smoked salmon, cooked shrimp, all sorts of vegetables.  My 10 year old is the best at rolling sushi or creating sashimi after showing him only once.  He often uses lettuce and sorts of cheese slices with his and adds wasab before rolling.  One thing I like to do is take a tablespoon of cooked sushi rice and put it into a plastic sandwich bag, then take a small piece of smoked salmon and little cream cheese and place on top of rice and squeeze it together in bag into the shape of an egg.  They look like rice eggs and when dipped into wasabi soy sauce blend I like them.  Please give this video a try.  I found everything I needed in the common grocery store but it's fun to explore the local Asiana market.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

These guys got so jealous that the bleeding heart got play and they didn't.  Honestly, flowers!

Friday, June 5, 2009

In the Garden

I've been in the garden this week.  That's my bleeding heart, the plant, silly.  When I awaken each morning, I can't wait to get outside and garden.  Sometimes it seems like I'm just pulling out the infernal grass that keeps showing up and I think I'm not gardening at all.  I'm doing something but grassing somehow doesn't capture it.  In the morning, the world seems clean, and I'm so quiet that the birds do their thing nearby and don't seem to mind me.  I piked a strawberry today and just ate it without washing it.  Hehe, I know, I am a brave one.  I have all sorts of flowers and tucked in here and there are vegetables.  I like to stretch the rules and twist them into something I can live with.  I've met a ton of new friends on TWITTER and I swear they're the strawberries in my flower garden of life: they're sweet and colorful.  One even showed me his red socks...isn't that cool?