Wednesday, June 30, 2010

From the "Are You Kidding Me" File

Last summer I dropped 50 bucks at the local fireworks stand for a handful of things to blow up. I thought I was a pretty shrewd shopper because I bought the multi-pack instead of going a la carte. "A $39 Savings!" it said, right on the package. And I believed them.

Then I went to Costco and saw people pushing shopping carts with Mini Cooper-sized packages of fireworks up to the cash register. I was still feeling pretty good about my savvy firework shopping until I realized their Mini Cooper-sized firework pack cost one cent less than my laptop computer-sized pack.

This year, I would not make the same error. I went directly to Costco and found the $49.99 pack of fireworks. It was huge. Bigger than any firework package I'd ever seen in my entire life. It will probably take us 3 nights just to blow the whole thing up.

The kids will be thrilled, I thought, and I wondered where they'd gotten off to. I found them on the end of the aisle looking at an even bigger package of fireworks for $79.99. "Can we get this one?" they asked.

Even if the package hadn't been too big to fit in the back of the car, there is no way I would have purchased it. "Look at what we're getting," I said, gesturing excitedly to my heavily laden shopping cart. The end of the of the package extended over the back of the cart and the kids studied it for all of 7 seconds.

"That's all?" they said. "There aren't even any smoke bombs."

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Jell-o Project: Fruit Mold, Literally

Feeling a little uninspired this week, I thought I'd make something sure to be a hit with the kids. These "fruit" slices are cute and actually quite tasty. And the kids agreed!

If you want to make these fruit Jell-o slices, check out these directions from

I appreciate all those who have lent suggestions to help me get out of my Jell-o doldrums. I was very close to making Allyson's suggested Prune Whip this week until I found out what was involved in making prune pulp.

I will have to find a special Jell-o to make for a little get-together we will have this Friday with a few friends. I'm thinking it will need to be red, white and blue. And fabulous.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Whoopie! It's Summer

We don't subscribe to the newspaper, but we still get the free weekly "Food Day" delivered to our driveway every Tuesday. Normally I take it directly from driveway to recycling bin, but this week Robert got to it first and brought it inside.

The featured food this week was the whoopie pie.

They looked delicious and I had nothing else to do except cart the kids to swimming lessons and free bowling sessions, bandage up scraped knees, micro manage the clean-up of busted water balloons, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, stay ahead of the laundry, nag about wet towels on the floor, insist on baths and teeth brushing for stinky boys, mediate arguments, plan a birthday party and investigate that burning smell.

So I decided to make them.

I started out with the classic whoopie pie: Chocolate cake-cookie with marshmallow filling. The recipes can be found here. While they were tasty, I felt the cookie part was not cakey enough. I followed the recipe to the letter, including sifting the dry ingredients. Who sifts? I did. These cookies tasted fine, I just thought the texture was a bit off.

The next day I tried the s'more whoopie pie. I purchased graham flour for these cookies which turned out more like I'd expected: light and cakey. OK, maybe they could have been a bit more dense. But at least the texture seemed spot on.

The chocolate ganache and marshmallow filling makes these cookies a little over the top. The first one is complete yum, but by s'more whoopie pie number two, I found myself with a sugar-induced headache.

I had considered buying the cookbook the Food Day article revolves around, but even though this cookbook features more than 40 mix and match recipes for endless combinations of whoopie, I believe I've reached my whoopie pie quota for a while.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Jell-o Project: ¡Ay, caramba!

Sunday's Pina Colada Jell-o was disappointing.

Here are a few reasons why it should have been a smashing success:
- contains no shellfish
- contains no vegetables
- contains no actual fruit
- fancy, exotic ingredients from Mexico and Singapore
- there is a picture of a smiling kid on the package of the gelatine.

Unfortunately, the pina colada Jell-o was bland and boring. The consistency was too firm--almost Jell-o Jiggler firm. Neither the coconut nor the pineapple flavor came through in the final product.

A few of the kids only licked the Jell-o before proclaiming their disgust, but one took several bites and Robert and I both gave it a fair shot and still couldn't finish our insipid serving.

Aesthetically, I think the Jell-o is quite lovely. It's a mystery why it wasn't delicious.

My biggest obstacle this week will be overcoming the malaise this boring Jell-o has caused to come upon me. It's as if pina colada Jell-o has sucked all the inspiration right out of me. I have absolutely no desire to try another Jell-o recipe.

I need a nap.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Inspired by Shrimp Aspic

I mentioned in my last post that shrimp aspic tended to be a bit divisive. If you don't find it tasty, you may at least find it inspiring. This is what Dad has to say about this old family standard:

For 43 years, I’ve suffered in vain

As the aspic was served up,

Oh what a pain.

Who ever thought

Putting jello with fish?

Certainly not my favorite dish.

But eat it I had to, or bring on the shame,

From a spouse who had made it--

Old what’s her name.

Its texture is awful, it looks like a mess.

Just like worms in a salad,

I must confess.

And each year at Christmas,

And Thanksgiving too,

Out comes the shrimp

And the red tomato goo.

All together she blends it,

Whips it up in a bowl,

Then she sets it before us

And sweetly says, “I know

you will like it, if you just take a taste."

Each year it’s the same,

Oh what a waste.

But tradition continues,

We don’t stand a chance,

Of replacing the aspic


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Jell-o Project: The Dreaded Shrimp Aspic

Be afraid. Be very afraid: I have put shellfish in Jell-o.

This week I'm pulling out an old family favorite and probably the very Jell-o salad for which grandma's Jell-o molds were originally intended. To be fair, I should mention that some people in the family love it and some people in the family hate it. Shrimp Aspic is a divisive salad.

If you think you might be brave enough to try shrimp aspic for yourself, here is the recipe:

1 small box of lemon Jell-o
a scant 2 cups of tomato juice
1/8 cup vinegar
Boil tomato juice and vinegar and stir in Jell-o until dissolved.

1/8 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 TB finely chopped onion
scant 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
precooked salad shrimp (Mom says just add an amount that looks right. I said, "half a pound?" She said, "sure!")
1/2 can chopped olives
Let the whole mess gel partially, then stir to evenly distribute the chunks and pour into little molds and finish setting. Serve on lettuce leaf and wait for reactions.

Due to his shellfish allergy, Robert was exempt from the shrimp aspic experience. He was sorely disappointed. Not surprisingly, the boys wanted nothing to do with shrimp aspic. I required one bite from all three of them and I'm happy to say, none of them threw up. But no one asked for a second bite either.

I, on the other hand, loved the shrimp aspic. I ate two servings. Yum!

I have a soft spot in my heart for shrimp aspic and wanted to give it a chance to succeed, so I enlisted the help of a few friends. Ryan and I-Shuan were my first non-family taste testers. I instructed them to "think shrimp cocktail," not Jell-o. They admitted that it wasn't horrible, but wasn't their favorite. However, I-Shuan did write this inspiring ode:

Shrimp Aspic, the name strikes fear
In every one with an ear.
What could it be? This jell-o novelty?
If only we all could partake.

If you could find such luck,
Shrimp Aspic could make you a buck!
Just take a bite!
Why all this fright?
I saw it on Iron Chef last night!

Now here's the first taste!
There's no time to waste!
Was that a wheeze?
No! It slides down with ease!
All the way in...and then out.

It's out now so you lose.
Your bites weren't really chews.
Why a face that's so sad?
The chunks weren't so bad!
And that lettuce leaf looked so divine!

My next non-family taste tester was Andrea. She came to my house to taste the aspic. I told her I would not watch her eat it so she could grimace in private. However, she loved it! Yes, that's right.

Loved. It.

She said it was a delicous cold shrimp concoction and agreed that the instruction to "think shrimp cocktail" was very helpful.

So, there you have it! Two out of eight Jell-0 taste testers love shrimp aspic.

Now, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles: please leave a comment letting me know your feelings about shrimp aspic.

Of course I'll take comments from anyone, but no slamming the aspic unless you've tried the aspic.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Jell-o Project: An Attempt at Reverse Psychology

Meet Lime Cucumber Jell-o salad. I knew there was very little chance my family would like this savory Jell-o salad so I decided to not let them have any.

This week I simply did not have the constitution to withstand my offspring's various complaints, whines and pained facial expressions. Let's just say I'm feeling a little sensitive these days. But more than that, I realized that if I can't get my kids to eat ice cream Jell-o, and Cool Whip Pudding Jell-o, cucumber Jell-o was right out.

And then there was the small part of me which thought to employ Ye Olde Reverse Psychology.

The only problem with the covert mental tactics was that, as it turned out, the Jell-o was fairly disgusting. I attribute this to the addition of a quarter cup of white vinegar to the lime Jell-o. The teaspoon of grated onion was also an ingredient impossible to overlook, but only on principle. A teaspoon? Really?

Still, I partook of the Lime Cucumber Jell-o salad with aplomb. I made comments like: I'm the only one who gets Jell-o tonight. Mmm, it's so good. Sorry, I didn't make any for you. You would all just hate it anyway.

It worked.

"Can I try some?" Jonah said.

I couldn't lie. "Really, it's not very good. I don't think you will like it." Still, I held a spoonful of the stuff out for him to sample.

His assessment of "not bad" was just the encouraging lie Ethan needed to try it.

"I know you'll hate it," I said, reaching a small taste across the table towards his skeptical mouth.

I was right. But then Robert wanted some.

Isaac was too smart to be taken in by my mind games, but the rest of us heartily agreed that Lime Cucumber Jell-o Salad was a bit stomach-churning.

This is the first time since the inception of The Jell-o Project that my entire family has been united on the subject of Jell-o.