Tag Archives: Recipe

A Spring Feast: Dessert

I thought I knew a lot about food when I moved from California to New York for graduate school.  I’d lived in So Cal all of my life, regularly ate food from various cultures and thought I was pretty adventuresome.  Isn’t there something about pride going before a fall?  In this case, my “fall” was going to be in falling in love with food and cooking in a way that I’d never experienced before.

I grew up loving to cook with my family; my mom and Grammie are two of the major cooking influences in my life.  Then in New York, living alone and thousands of miles away from any friends and family, I found myself turning on the TV just to have some background noise in my cramped, but empty apartment.  More often than not the channel I left it on was food TV.  This is where I started to truly learn to cook, and thankfully I also made some of the best friends of my life in New York and they also love food.

I met my best friend, my brain twin, in graduate school within the same week that I met Dave.  And have mercy on anyone in our path; we did our best to get them caught up in our own version of crazy.  Jen and I started having dinner parties on our super tight grad school budgets, trying out recipes from Bon Appetite and (the late) Gourmet magazines that we read like novels.  Soon Jen started bringing me (later Dave too) home with her for holidays to her parents’ place in upstate.  Dave and I fell in love, with each other, but also with Jen’s family.  We claimed them for our own and they’ve been stuck with us ever since.

It was at their home where I learned about true hospitality, gained an appreciation for a good Dark and Stormy, and learned (or tried) to hold my ground under severe peer pressure for one more trip back to the food line in the kitchen.  Even if you’d already been 2-3 times before, if you were lax enough to leave an empty plate in your vicinity for a moment to lean back and groan you were charged with “what, you don’t like my wife’s cooking?”  And back in line you’d go, unbuttoning the top button of your pants as you went.  We learned that the secret was to take small portions on the first round, then it wasn’t quite so painful to go back for thirds in true Hobbit fashion.

There are many recipes (or versions of them) that I learned from this household, and the one I’m sharing here today is by far the simplest but it is one that I must have every Easter (now to be joined with Aureuil’s Ham).  It is a deceptively simple, retro-style jello salad, but one that in our household now takes the place of dessert; Deb’s Jello Salad.  In fact, when I first sat down to write this post, I did so with a bowl of the leftover jello at my side.  This too, is one of those dishes that I look forward to making because I’ll have the leftovers to look forward to as well.  My only regret is that I don’t have a nice crystal bowl to showcase it in.  I can guarantee that soon I’ll be making a trip to the local thrift store to remedy that.  Then I’ll have to make this jello salad again, just to make sure that the bowl shows it off nicely, of course.

Deb’s Jello Salad
Ingredients:
2 boxes raspberry (or other flavor) jello
2 14 oz. cans of pineapple chunks,
1 cup frozen black berries or strawberries
2 bananas, sliced
1 pt. sour cream

Directions:

  1. Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Set aside.
  2. Mix the jello following the package directions, but substituting the reserved pineapple juice for some of the cool water.
    An inglorious beginning...

    An inglorious beginning…

  3. Put the jello in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the pineapple, frozen berries and bananas to the jello. Divide the jello in half, putting half into a serving bowl and then into the refrigerator. Leave the other half on the counter so that it doesn’t set up as fast.
    The drained pineapple, frozen blackberries and sliced bananas.

    The drained pineapple, frozen blackberries and sliced bananas.

    Everyone into the pool...

    Everyone into the pool…

  5. When the refrigerated jello is set (start checking after 15 minutes or so), carefully spread the sour cream over that first layer.

    When I first tasted this jello salad, I assumed that the middle layer was sweetened cream, but no it's unsweetened sour cream.  It doesn't need any sugar since the surrounding jello and fruit takes care of that nicely.

    When I first tasted this jello salad, I assumed that the middle layer was sweetened cream, but no it’s unsweetened sour cream. It doesn’t need any sugar since the surrounding jello and fruit takes care of that nicely.

  6. Gently spoon the remaining jello on top of the sour cream layer and refrigerate until set. Enjoy!
    The fruit jewels suspended in delicious jello.

    The fruit jewels suspended in delicious jello.

    This is not the correct dish for the jello salad, but it's the best that I have on hand at the moment.  Just use your imagination for how stunning it is in a clear, cut crystal bowl.

    This is not the correct dish for the jello salad, but it’s the best that I have on hand at the moment. Just use your imagination for how stunning it is in a clear, cut crystal bowl.

Click here for a printable version of Deb’s Jello Salad.

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Food and Family, Family and Food

One of the biggest perks of this trans-continental move has been getting closer to family; or at least closer to my in-laws.  We are on the correct coast for my family and their air travel time was cut down by three hours, but we are not close enough to allow for frequent visits.  Luckily for our Little Man, however, he at least gets to be closer to one set of grandparents… finally.  The saddest part, of all of our moves, has been moving farther away from friends that have become family.

Living in the American Midwest we were lucky enough to have a couple of visits from family each year.  Within the first two weeks of living on the island we had three visits from family, with others planned for the near future.  This is my idea of an embarrassment of riches; access to family.  Now if we can just get my parents to move a bit farther north… but I digress.

Little Man and Dave wading out into the ocean

Little Man and Dave wading out into the ocean

Little Man and Daddy wading out in the ocean

The water was amazingly clear and shallow for quite a ways…

The most recent family visit to our little homestead was Dave’s sister.  I have been blessed by being a part of multiple families of very strong women, and Dave’s sister is one of them.  Because of the distance that used to exist between our respective homes, you could probably count the number of times that I have actually been able to visit her on two hands, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know her even better now that we are so close.

When we got a weekend planned for E to come out, we were all very excited and my mind immediately went to what food I could make.  I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from cooking for people, and from trying to find the perfect thing or meal to create that fits that person.  In E’s case, however, this can be tricky, but to quote her son “tricky, but I can do it.”  For various health reasons Dave’s sister follows a unique set of dietary guidelines; not quite vegan, not quite macrobiotic; not quite gluten-free.  Her diet is distinct enough that my “go to” ideas of home-made scones and cinnamon rolls did not seem appropriate (though I shamelessly will use those to lure any other family and/or friends to come and stay with us… they’re tasty… you know you want them…).  Now before I give anyone the wrong idea, E is also completely “no muss, no fuss.”  She does not want anyone to feel they must cater to her eating style, and in fact has been known to bring all of her food with her so as not to cause anyone stress or hassle to feed her.  Challenge accepted!

For dinner I knew that I wanted to make something out of a macrobiotic-inspired cookbook that E had given me a couple of Christmases ago.  The recipe I chose was the Rustic Pasta from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet.  I have not yet gotten permission from the publisher to post the recipe, and since I did not do anything to make it my own I’ll just have to point you in the right direction for the moment.  If/when I get permission to post the recipe I will.  In the meantime I can at least tell you that it is a recipe that should not work.  It is a simple whole wheat pasta dish with quite a lot of onion and cabbage, and a sauce that combines a little bit of soy sauce with a little bit of marinara sauce.  It should not work, but somehow it does.  Even Little Man agrees, but I do admit to a liberal dusting of his favorite parmesan on top.  I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to try it if E wasn’t coming to visit (motive) and if we had not just harvested a cabbage from the garden (means).  Let’s just leave it at the fact that the dish was so good I just made it again for our family for dinner and Little Man scarfed it up again.

Freshly picked cabbage for a Rustic Pasta dinner

Soon to be freshly picked cabbage for a Rustic Pasta dinner

The recipe I want to highlight for this post is also not my own, but I have gotten permission to share this one with you.  Kiersten Frase has an amazing blog called Oh My Veggies – A Vegetarian Food Blog (www.ohmyveggies.com) that I have been truly enjoying.  In fact, one of her recipes has become my go-to breakfast.  Her Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Shake (click on the text link to go to the site and recipe) takes only minutes to prepare the night before.  In the morning simply toss the pre-mixed ingredients in the blender, blitz it up and you are ready to go.  The shakes are creamy, intensely chocolaty and taste like a great milk shake even though they dairy free.  The one change to the recipe that I make is blending in two ice cubes per serving just before pouring the shakes.  This makes them even frostier, giving more of the ice cream texture.  Kiersten also has a Chai Breakfast Smoothie, which we love, and a Piña Colada that I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but chances are it will be delicious.

Oh My Veggies Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Shake

I made Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Shakes for the three of us, Dave, E and myself, and Little Man did his best to smile his way to repeated tastes from all of us.  Little monkey!  The shakes were the perfect start to our morning.  We ended up doing a day trip out to Chemainus, which is about 20 minutes south of Nanaimo.  Chemainus is a pretty little town with great character right on the ocean.  It is famous for its numerous murals, but Little Man wanted nothing to do with that, and instead pulled us along to the playground by the water.  The water was cold but not quite toe-curling, and amazingly clear.  Our little guy had a great time wading out with his Dad and looking for shells in the shallows.  He also developed quite the crush on his Auntie, or I should say has rekindled the flame.  Little Man has only had the chance to spend time with E on two or three trips, and each time he falls for her hard.  Good thing the feeling seems to be mutual.

Family at Chemainus Beach

Family at Chemainus Beach