Archive for the ‘Fun Food’ Category
A quick and easy idea for a child’s party or family night is to have a make your own pizza party. You can find pizza dough at any grocery store, and often times a pizza parlor will sell you uncooked pizza dough. *Just make sure you call in advance and ask. It is also easy enough to make.
2-1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 Tablespoons Yeast
2 teaspoons salt
6-6-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In mixer, mix yeast and water. Let stand for a couple of minutes to activate yeast. Add salt and olive oil. Add flour slowly until dough forms. Mix on low . Dough should stick to hook but should not be tacky to the touch. Keep adding more flour until desired consistency is reached.
*I like to let the dough rise for about an hour as it is easier to work with. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Optimal to rise in oven with a little steam (80-90 degrees)
Now you can either buy or make your own pizza sauce. Next, get the toppings. Experiment with different cheeses, vegetables and meats. Cut them up and put them in separate bowls. Let each person make their own pizza and then put them in the oven. I use pizza stones, but cookie sheets will work as well.
Dessert? How about make your own sundaes or decorating cookies or cupcakes? Each person will love making their own personal creations! This will save you money and time with a child’s party because it saves you the trouble of buying and orchestrating the “party games.”
*Left over pizza toppings work great for omelets*
It’s hard for some families to agree on a meal plan, especially when there are a lot of mouths to feed and not everyone enjoys the same items, and finding ways to inspire everyone and stay out of the same old routine can be hard. One way to help your children broaden their horizons and learn more about the world that they live in is to start early with introducing foods from a variety of nationalities. More than just eating Chinese takeout or Taco Bell, kids need to learn where and how these recipes developed and how fun and tasty they can be. An easy and rewarding way to do that is to add an “ethnic food night” to your weekly meal rotation.
Write a different country on slips of paper and put them in a jar. On a specific morning every week remove a slip of paper from the jar and plan a meal for your family utilizing customs and traditions from that country. By using the jar method you reduce the number of arguments over choosing a country, and your kids will be excited about the anticipation of a random choice every week. If you own a globe or have a large map of the world you can also blindfold a member of the family and have them spin around and point to the country of choice.
So for example, lets say that you pull Sweden from the jar on a Friday morning. For dinner that night you could quickly and easily whip up some Swedish Meatballs, with a warm loaf of Limpu Bread, a customary treat loved by the Swedes. If you want to experiment a bit with dessert you can try Semlor, which are cream filled buns alot like cream puffs.
On a night when Mexican is the choice you can try making a seafood Ceviche, or yummy Enchiladas con Arroz y Negros, translated as enchiladas with black beans and rice. Play it up, have your kids dress up in sombreros or do a Mexican Hat Dance. On Italian night you can make a refreshing Tomato Salad, using fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella, or make your own quick and easy No Rise Pizza Dough and let your kids choose from a variety of toppings. Have your kids make funny paper mustaches and speak only in silly Italian accents.
If you have the time and the resources you could really go wild with the theme, choose a country on Saturday and create three different meals around the theme. Imagine a tasty Greek Omelet stuffed with feta and spinach for breakfast Monday, tasty Gyros for lunch on Thursday, and Lamb Kabobs for dinner on Saturday! This is great for home schooled kids and stay at home Moms.
The more your children learn about a wider range of cultures the more accepting they will be in the future when they have to deal with issues like racism, religion, and tolerance and acceptance in their daily lives. You might also inspire the travel bug. If you have time, get books from the library about each different culture and begin or end the night with a short lesson on the location of choice, what the people are like, what they do for fun. Make it relevant for your kids. If you want to expand more on a subject use one of several pen-pal type websites like Kid’s Space Connection or ask your child’s teacher for information about getting signed up with a safe and reliable pen pal program for kids from a far away land.
Just in case you find that one of your family members does not like a certain dish, and you don’t want them to go hungry or feel left out, create a safe meal. Have a variety of frozen dinners, or something familiar, like Peanut Butter and Jelly or microwaveable Pizza Rolls set aside for people not thrilled with the ethnic meal. Be sure to let your kids know that if they choose not to eat what is prepared that they are more than welcome to prepare their own simple meal, but that they must at least make an attempt to try each dish before they go that route. Most kids will give in when faced with the task of preparing their own food, and remind them that it usually takes between 5 and 10 different attempts before they actually like a food.
As usual, a journal of the events, maybe even including camera snap shots of your kids in costume, is a great idea. This activity is bound to be fun for the whole family, and the ability to look back on the memories will be cherished in the years to come. Happy Cooking!
Somehow, this post got lost in transition from one internet provider to the next. Here it is, the coveted Part 2 of my candy making series. Just in time for Valentine’s day!
A lot of the time, the hardest part about making candy and sweets is deciding exactly what to make. With the huge variety of treats that are available, both commercially and at home, you amy find inspiration anywhere you look. Imaging big puffy marshmallows that are lightly flavored with mint or dusted with hot cocoa mix, great for a goodie bag for your weary holiday guests, or sweet little lollipops for your children’s class, designed and packaged by an army of your kids and their friends.
Let’s go over some of the choices you have when deciding what kind of candy to make, split into two groups: chocolate based and sugar based.
Sugar Based Candies:
Glazes, Candied Fruits
Fudge and Fondant
Chewy or Caramel Candies
Divinity and Marshmallows
Nougat and Taffy
Brittles, Hard Candies and Lollipops
Chocolate Dipped Treats
Solid Chocolate Bars
Treats with Chocolate Centers
I know, at this point, your mouth is watering and you are having even more trouble deciding. I told you, this is the hardest part about making candies. Gather your kiddos and ask them what their favorite treat is, odds are you can find a very simple and easy recipe for it.
Sugar based candies are very simply created, the most difficult part is achieving the proper temperatures for the type of candy that you wish to make, and making sure that your ratio of water to sugar when mixing your initial ingredients is correct. Too much or too little of either and you might spend more time than you like trying to fix your recipe rather than decorating them.
Temperature is critical, I can’t stress enough that a good quality calibrated candy thermometer is the single most important ingredient to any recipe, chocolate or sugar based, so make sure you have one. For the bold and daring, there is a thermometer-free method of checking your candies temperature utilizing cold water, but it can often be wrong or misinterpreted, so I don’t recommend it for your first attempt at candy making. If you want to learn more about the cold water method please click HERE.
So at this point you’ve traveled to the grocery store, gotten your basic supplies, and have maybe even considered a recipe or two. Let’s go over the temperature chart, the different names for each stage of heat levels, and the different types of candies that can be made from each stage
There are seven different temperature stages for your candy making pleasure, ranging from 223* to 350* depending on what type of candy you want to make. They are listed as follows:
223*-235*F: Thread Stage, for making sgar glazes and candied fruit type treats
235*-245*F: Soft Ball Stage, for making fudge and fondant
245*-250*F: Firm Ball Stage, for chewy candies and caramels
250*-266*F: Hard Ball Stage, for divinity and marshmallows
270*-290*F: Soft Crack Stage, for nougat and taffy
300*-310*F: Hard Crack Stage, aptly named for hard candies and brittles
320*-350*F: Caramel Stage, the sugar will turn yellow gold, used for pralines.
Familiarize yourself with each stage of heat, and if you examine your candy thermometer it will likely be marked with some of these stages to help you achieve the proper heat level for each type of candy you make.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what candies can be made and how, let’s take a look at a very basic hard candy recipe, perfect for Christmas treats.
You Will Need:
A sturdy sauce pan
A cookie sheet lightly greased with cooking spray
A wet basting or pastry brush
2 cups of Sugar
2/3 cup of Karo light corn syrup
¾ cup of Water
1 teaspoon of flavoring oil, such as peppermint, (extracts will not work)
Mix together the water, sugar and corn syrup in the saucepan and stir the ingredients together over medium heat. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of your pan, making sure that it does not rest on the bottom of the saucepan. The closer you can position the bulb to the center of your mixture the better. Slowly bring the syrup mixture to a boil, and watch for sugar crystals that will start to grow around the edge of the liquid in the pan. If you see them, use the brush to gently melt them away. If you let them grow and fall into the syrup, the hardened sugar crystals will ruin the texture and make it grainy.
When your syrup reaches the Hard Crack Stage, or 300*, remove it from the heat and let it set until it stops boiling. Add your food coloring and flavoring and stir until completely combined. Pour the syrup onto your cookie sheet and wait a minute or so as it begins to cool. When the surface of the candy starts to cool use a VERY greased knife or a pizza cutter to gently score a crisscross pattern in your candy, to form little squares. Don’t try to cut all the way through at this point, just about halfway is fine, you’ll break the pieces up later. Let the scored sheet of candy cool completely.
This part is great for little helpers. Dust the top of the candy with the powdered sugar, then remove it from the cookie sheet, (aren’t you glad it was greased!) and dust the other side. Make sure your powdered sugar coating is smooth and even and then gently break the candy along the scored lines that you made, making bite size squares that are great for treats bags, gingerbread house decorations, and party favors. Add more powdered sugar to your pile of candy pieces to keep them from sticking, and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to package them and give them out.
I found these red striped and clear cellophane bags on sale as William Sonoma, I think they would be adorable for Valentine’s Day classroom favors.
The holidays are just around the corner, and everywhere you go there are silver bells, and lit up trees, and lights on houses, and candles in windows and everything and everyone is doing their best to get into the holiday spirit. A lot of people are still trying to recover from some of the struggle that our country has faced in the last few years, and “simple Christmas” is largely the theme this year. Even the White House was decorated with a homemade, arts and crafty feel this year! So let’s explore some of the crafts, decorations, and ornaments that you can make at home, using food!
You Will Need:
Popcorn (unbuttered, unsalted)
Honey or Peanut Butter
Dried or Fresh Cranberries
4-6 cans, with labels removed and washed
12 baby food jars
A box of Cheerios
A box of Apple Jacks
Salt Dough (recipe below)
A glue gun
Glitter and other such decorative items
I know. It’s a huge list. But you don’t have to make every item that we go over today. Just a few is okay. Lets get to work!
Popcorn Garland! (May be too tedious for younger kids)
Pop a couple of bags of popcorn and fill a bowl full of dried or fresh cranberries. Using the needle and thread, string the popcorn and cranberries until you reach a length that will wrap a few times around your Christmas tree, or you can hang from a balcony or railing.
Popcorn Ball Ornaments
Dip a single piece of popcorn in honey or penaut butter. Stick more pieces of popcorn until it forms a ball shape. Poke an ornament hanger into one end, and then paint, or hang just as it is!
String Apple Jacks and Cheerios in alternating colors on some string. Try putting them one on top of the other (lllllllllllll), or threading two strands of string in and out of the holes to look like (OOOOOOO).
Carve faces, words, or shapes into small red and green apples. Coat the freshly carved spots with petroleum jelly or Vaseline to slow the browning process from where the sugar in the apple reacts with oxygen from the air. Hang the apples in your tree like ornaments, or carve out the top about halfway down and place a small votive candle in it.
Apple and Orange Slices
Slice up a dozen apples and oranges and lay them on parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Bake them in the oven @ 200*F until they are dry or leave them out on a countertop to air dry (takes a lot longer). Hang the slices on your tree for a fragrant and country-style look this season!
Hanging a handful of large crunchy pretzels on your tree might seem a little out of the ordinary, but they make truly classic ornaments, and then don’t cost too much! The bigger the pretzel the better. You can even paint them with acrylic paint for a festive look.
A couple dozen candy canes aren’t hard to find for cheap, especially the little tiny miniature ones that you can get at dollar stores and discount stores all over the place. Candy canes don’t have to be white and red anymore either, they have fruit and other flavors and colors that can complement any decor.
Baby Food Jars
Wash and remove the labels from a dozen or so baby food jars. Using your hammer and nail, poke two holes in the tops of the jars and thread an ornament hook into the holes so that it is secure. You might want to twist it a few times to make sure that it is tight. Add a drop of glue from your glue gun to reinforce it. Now you have the choice of painting the outside of your jar, or putting things inside the jar, like glitter and beads and leaving it clear. When you are done either filling or painting the jar, drop a bead of glue on the rim, then screw on the lid so that it stays sealed. This is a great look for houses with new babies!
Wash and rinse a few steel or aluminum cans, the kind your veggies come in is great. Use a permanent maker to make a shape on the outside of the can using dots, then use the hammer and nail to poke holes in the can where the dots are. Try a star or a tree or a heart, the more creative the better. Better to let an adult do the hammering, to protect little fingers and thumbs. When your design is done, simply drop a votive candle or tea light in the can, and your design with light up! You can paint the outside of the cans if you want to, but the simple metal looks is classic.
Salt Dough Ornaments
1 Cup of Salt
1 Cup of Flour
1/2 Cup of Water
Mix the flour and salt together, mix the food coloring in with the water, then add the water to the dry ingredients. Knead the dough to combine. If the dough is too sticky add more flour, if it is too crumbly add more water. Continue to knead the dough until it is the color you’d like and has the consistency of Play-Doh. Roll the dough out and use cookie cutters or plastic knives, spoons, any tools you would like to make shapes, or build your own models out of the dough. When you are done secure an ornament hook in the top of the ornament and let them air dry or bake them at 200*F until they dry. You can paint them when they are dry and cool if you’d prefer to do that instead of using food coloring. If you only have kosher or really GRAINY salt, spin it in a food processor until it is fine, or your dough will look gritty. If you don’t use all the dough it should keep pretty well in a sealed container for two or three days, but its going to dry out eventually.
It’s time for a Tea Party!
Those of us who live outside the world of the 4 year old imagination have probably missed out on the whole tea party craze that has popped up since the release of the newest Alice In Wonderland movie this year, unless you think I’m talking about the political Tea Party. But more and more little girls are asking for Tea Party themed birthday parties, even Sweet Sixteens with a “high tea” theme have become popular in the last six months. It doesn’t take too much in the way of preperation, is surprisingly easy to plan and arrange, and can be fun for girls, and even boys, of any age.
Throw a Tea Party!
You Will Need:
A small group of friends
Small cookies or biscuits
Cucumber Sandwiches (recipe below)
Checkerboard Sandwiches (recipe below)
Cheshire Cat Sammies (recipe below)
Keep them simple. A piece of green construction paper can easily become a funky old Mad Hatter top hat. Write the date, the time, the location, and be sure to specify what your guests should wear! Give your party a crazy hat theme, or tell everyone to dress up in a costume or formal wear! Make sure to request that your guests RSVP so that you can make arrangements for food and snacks based on those who respond, but remember its always a good thing to plan for extra, and it helps if you are aware of any food allergies.
Tea and Snacks!
For younger kids, herbal, decaf or iced tea is a better idea than say black tea or anything with caffeine. If your guests are older try a flavored tea, or even chai if they are particularly worldly. It might even be worth it to invest in a cheap silver or porcelain tea set, you can ALWAYS find one at your local thrift store, particularly Goodwill.
Snacks are one of the fun parts about your Tea Party, because everything is miniaturized and made for eating with fingers, so perfect for small hands and very little mess! The “afternoon tea” was popularized by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford because she would often get hungry between lunch and dinner, which in those days were sometimes up to eight hours apart! So she started having tea and light snacks and cookies somewhere between 3 and 6 in the afternoon. As was the norm in the Victorian Era it soon became a wildly popular trend, thus came the tradition of afternoon tea! Afternoon tea is a very small series of snacks, usually something like a biscuit to start with your first cup of tea, then a small sandwich between cups of tea, and then a sweet item like a small pastry to go with your second cup of tea. It should not be confused with “high tea” which usually incorporates a full size meal.
All you need for the first course of your tea is two cans of Pillsbury biscuits. If you’d like you can use cookie cutters to make them into shapes, then bake them as the packaging suggests. Spread them with butter, cream cheese, honey, jam, or even “MUSTARD”! You can even delve deeper into the Alice In Wonderland theme and mark them with little signs that say “Eat Me”.
A classic tea snack, cucumber sandwiches are light, refreshing and go great as the second snack for your tea. All you need is a large cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds, some cream cheese or butter, and a loaf of wheat bread. Press the slices of white bread so that they are more dense, to about half the thickness they normally are. Spread the cream cheese on one side of both pieces of the bread, arrange four slices of cucumber over the cream cheese so that they do not overlap, then put your sandwich together. Using a small cookie cutter, cut your sandwich with the cookie cutter so that you get four individual sammies, with the cucumbers right smack in the center. I’ve made these with little star shaped cookie cutters, they are ADORABLE.
If the thought of cucumbers grosses your kids out, then try the same thing with ham and cheese and turkey, but instead of just wheat bread, try to incorporate a darker bread, like pumpernickel, or a much lighter bread, like white, into the sandwiches too. Cut them into squares and arrange them, checkerboard style, on a plate or cutting board.
This snack is the perfect dessert for your afternoon tea, sweet and refreshing and fun to make as well! You’ll need a few red apples, cored and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices. You’ll also need a jar of creamy peanut butter, and a bag of mini marshmallows. Spread the apple slices with peanut butter and arrange the marshmallows on the peanut butter so that they look like the Cheshire cat’s teeth. Top your sandwich with another apple slice and tada! Smile!
Have fun with this party theme. It’s perfect for indoors and outdoors, so the weather doesn’t have to be a factor in location or timing.
I know that my posts normally focus on tasty and nutritious treats for people, usually kids, or “short people” as I call them. But many of us consider our pets, especially our doggies, kids! So why not spend the day making yummy and nutritious treats for your perfect or problematic pooch? These treats also make great holiday gift ideas, take a bag to the doggie park on your next romp and share and share alike knowing they are all natural, contain no preservatives or yucky stuff, and are totally doggie and doggie-Mommy friendly!
When you shop for the foods for your dog, try to stay away from processed or preserved foods, natural is the way to go. Preservatives, additives and dyes can wreak havoc on your doggies tummy, and the more you stick to a natural or organic recipe, the better the treats will be for your dog! Neighbors will also appreciate a treat for their snooty Spot that is 100% natural over a processed sticky treat from a foil bag.
Some tips to remember before making your doggie treats:
- Consider any allergies that your pet might have, like wheat, dairy, etc. Odds are you are aware of anything that you’re dog can not have, after all, he is your dog!
- Remember that these treats are simply that, TREATS, not a full meal, and should never be used as a sustitution for a healthy amount of dog food.
- Do not use processed white sugar or salt to flavor your treats. Use honey, or fruit instead. Avoid sugar and salt at all times.
- ONLY USE CAROB, if you want to utilize chocolate-ish recipes. Chocolate is fatal to dogs, sometimes even in the smallest amounts, so there is no room for error here. Carob is very similar in taste, texture and color, and is 100% doggie friendly.
- Invest in some nifty doggie themed cookie cutters! Look for bone, frisbee, toy, animal, or silly shapes.
- Think about texture. Most recipes call for oven drying time for your treats, usually one hour to two, for a chewy and/or crunchy snack. This removes moisture, so the longer you dry the treats the crunchier and harder they will be. If you have a dog with weaker teeth, try less time. If you have a puppy that gnaws on everything, go crunchy.
- Storage is key, frozen is perfect for any treat, or a dry, cool pace, in an airtight tub or Ziploc bag. Try to keep treats containing real meat and cheeses refrigerated.
Here are a few quick and easy recipes made of stuff you probably already have in your kitchen, that you and your kids can make in no time. These recipes were adapted from an awesome book that you can find online or in your local library, called Doggie Desserts; Homemade Treats for Happy Healthy Dogs, by Cheryl Gianfrancesco.
Sunny Seed Cookies
3 cups whole wheat or sunflower flour
1/2 cup of shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
2 tbsp veggie oil
1/4 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup of water
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until smooth and completely mixed. Let the dough sit in your fridge for 30 minutes until chilled, then use a rolling pin and some extra flour to roll the dough out to 1/2″ thick. Using your nifty cookie cutters, cut the shapes out of the cookie dough, re using the leftover dough until you have approximately 60 cookies depending on the size and shape of your cutter. Bake your cookies @ 350*F on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 30-35 minutes, then shut the oven off and let the cookies sit for 1-2 hours until they are dried to your dogs preference.
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup cooked, chopped boneless lean beef or browned ground beef
1/2 cup veggie oil
1/2 cup water
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, then knead dough until smooth. Roll into 1/2″ sheet and cut your cookies, approximate 40 2″ cookies, then bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 25-30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the cookies dry for 1-2 hours, based on your pooch’s preference.
Frozen Berry Bars
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup chopped unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup veggie oil
2 egg whites
1/2 cup honey
1 10-oz package frozen strawberries, thawed
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup vanilla fat free yogurt
1/2 cup wheat germ
Mix flour, peanuts and veggie oil in a large bowl. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a 9X13″ glass baking dish, and bake for 20 minutes at 350*F. While the crust is baking, mix your egg whites, honey, fruit, and lemon juice with a mixer on high speed, until smooth, then fold in your yogurt. Put it in the fridge until your crust is cooled, then pour the mixture over the crust. Freeze the entire glass dish until the mixture on top is firm, then cut into approximately 16 squares. Wait until the treats are softened to give to your doggie, too much very cold stuff can make their tummy hurt, and cause a mess later.
Now I know that my posts usually focus on nutrition and attempting to cut out the amount of sugar that your family consumes, but that does not mean that you can’t MAKE treats and give them away to other families. Lots of Moms have tried and failed at making candy, with a majority of them giving up, tossing the “ruined” sugar in the trash and selling their candy thermometer for a serious loss at the next neighborhood yard sale. But with a little practice, some creative techniques, and pretty basic equipment, you can have colorful and tasty sweets that even Russel Stover would be proud of, just in time for holiday gift bags and party favors!
You’re going to need a few things for your candy making adventure, most of which is probably already stored away in your cabinets. Now you may not need all of these items, depending on the types of candy you plan to make, but lets go over the list, just in case.
- Candy Thermometer (critical for good candy, there is no substitute for this item, borrow one or buy one)
- Candy Molds
- Dipping Tools
- Pastry Bag with Tips
- Candy Colors or Candy Dye (Food Coloring is an Okay Substitute but Doesn’t Work Right in All Recipes)
- An Offset Spatula
- Good Quality Sugar
- Good Quality Chocolate
- Corn Syrup
- A Food Processor
- Flavor Extracts, (Almond, Mint, Vanilla etc)
- Wax Paper, Plastic Wrap
- Sprinkles and Other Decorations
- Lollipop Stems or Popsicle Sticks
- Non-stick Cooking Spray
- Double Boiler
- A Timer, and Patience
Nothing affects your candy more than what you use to make it with. If you use low grade (read: cheap) ingredients, you’re going to get cheap candy. But you don’t have to spend a million dollars on the finest handmade Swiss chocolate, or grow and process your own sugar to get good quality stuff. If you have friends in the confectionary industry ask them what they use, or if they can help you find something to use, or search the Net. There are literally thousands of forums and websites about what to use when making everything from fudge to lollipops, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn.
When it comes to chocolate a good starting point for beginners is some of the widely available Ghirardelli chocolates that are sold in both craft stores and kitchen supply stores around the country. If you can find a real chocolatier, like a Kilwins shop, close by, ask what they would recommend, and by all means look, touch, smell and taste the chocolate before you buy it. It’s important that your chocolate have a smooth glossy finish, a dark even color, and a strong chocolate smell and taste. If the chocolate breaks easily in your fingers, pass on it, it’s probably either old or low grade. Remember that not all chocolate is sweet, there are many varieties of flavors that can enhance or detract from your finished product.
Sugar is pretty basic, but there are a surprising amount of differences in types, quality levels, and flavors of sugar, much more than whether its white sugar, powdered sugar or brown sugar. Look for a good quality, name brand sugar to start with, since the majority of hard candies are made with a boiled sugar syrup, or another name brand type of confectioners sugar is you are making fudge or other candies.
The rest of your ingredients don’t have to be as high brow as your main ingredients, no one’s going to really care if your sprinkles are the expensive kind or the store brand, but make sure that the equipment that you have is in good condition. Make sure that your candy thermometer is accurate, or at the very least, calibrate the thing so that if the reasing is wrong, you know its wrong and can compensate for it. Temperature is very important when it comes to taste, texture, and even the look of your candies, and a bad or broken thermometer is going to turn your candy experiments into failures before you get halfway to the fun part of decorating.
Please remember that what you are doing, basically heating sugar, is inherently very dangerous. Molten sugar and chocolate burn quickly and can cause a large number of injuries be it from a spill, a spray, a splatter, or a slip. Since most of my projects are kid friendly, I am not going to say keep the kids out of the kitchen for this one, but I am going to recommend an age limit of at least ten years old for the cooking process. Let your little ones go to town in decorating and wrapping and “prettifying” your candies, you can even make an assembly line for dipping your chocolates in sprinkles and a variety of other items, but keep them away from the stove while you are working with the hot stuff. Use aprons and protective gear, even goggles are a good idea. Make sure that your hot pads are the wearable kind, instead of the little square ones, I had a friend who had a bubble of hot sugar/water explode and hit her hand while moving the pot from one burner to another, and she still has the scar. Have fun and be creative, but most of all be safe.
Tomorrow I’ll go over some recipe basics and cooking techniques, as well as links to temperature charts and other such information for the perfect snacks and goodies!
Jello has been around for more 165 years, since it was patented in 1845. The original formula was patented by Peter Cooper, the inventor of the first steam engine, and is at its most basic form powdered proteins from animal fat and connective tissue. Gelatin was not flavored until the patent was sold to Pearle and May Wait in 1897, who added raspberry, lemon, orange and strawberry flavor to it and made the dessert basically what it is today, referring to it as Jello. The Wait’s were not able to successfully market the dessert unfortunately, and it wasnt until 1904 when the one of the founding companies of the General Foods brand, which would eventually be Kraft Foods, sent out salesman to promote the substance and give it more popularity with a family recipe book.
New flavors included before the end of the 1930′s were chocolate, cherry and peach, and the Jello salad craze that swept the nation in the first half of the 1900′s would lead to even savory flavors like celery, tomato and Italian Jello. In the mid 1930′s Jello pudding was created, in a chocolate flavor. Pudding was a hit and several other flavors would follow, most of which are still in circulation today.
By the 1960′s more than 15 flavors were available for purchase, and the Jello Company created their line of No-Bake desserts in 1966. The dessert cups, or snack packs, were avaiable in 1971, and General Foods became Kraft in 1989. Flavors like margarita and pina colada became popular, and Jello was named the official state “snack” of Utah in 2001.
Approximately 300 million boxes of Jello are sold every year.
Fruit and Jello salads have been popular since the beginning of the 1900s and a wide variety of fruit can be used when setting Jello, except for fresh pineapple, papaya, kiwi and ginger. Jello shots, or Jello prepared partially with alcoholic spirits, became popular with the rise of the 1990′s cocktail culture.
The world’s only Jello museum is based in LeRoy NY. Collections of Jello molds dating back to the 1800s are prized by many people around the world and can be worth millions of dollars.
Cook, Bake and Much More with Jello
Jello offers Moms a great base, addition or even the entire substance of a turly tasty dessert, and its simple makeup and wide variety of uses make it a great addition to any pantry.
Sometimes when your kids ask “Mommy, what is that?” you don’t always have the right answers. Here’s a list of some truly strange foods and a description of each, so the next time you encounter them in your culinary creations you will be prepared.
Bird Nest Soup
Yes, it is REALLY made from bird nests, and if you aren’t easily able to get over that fact, stop reading now because it only gets worse. The nests are not made of twigs and twine, they are actually made from the saliva of a type of bird known as the swift. The male swift bird spends approximately 35 days making a large nest attached to a roosting point, found in and around the islands surrounding Asia, and the nests are collected, sanitized, and dissolved in a soup. The bird saliva gives the soup texture and flavor and it is said to be a cure for a host of ailments and issues. It is high in a large number of nutrients, such as protein as well. Different varieties of these nests can sell for up to $10,000 a kilogram.
Snails. Yum. They might not be fast, they might not look tasty, but escargot is considered on of the finest delicacies the world of French cuisine can offer. There has been evidence in archaeological digs that snails may have been eaten by our oldest ancestors. Not all types of snail are edible, but the ones that are are very high in protein, and very low in fat, depending on how they are cooked. Normally the snails are removed from their shells, or shucked, then cooked in butter and salt and other flavorings, then stuffed back into the shells and served with a small fork.
As the name says it, pork rind is literally the skin of a pig, cured and then puffed like a cheese doodle. It is flavored with garlic, or spicy seasonings, and then eaten as a snack, much like cheese doodles. Pork rinds are also known as cracklings, they are not air puffed, just the layer of skin and fat is seasoned and deep fried for a crispy treat that is eaten all over the world. It is very high in fat, but very low in carbs, which makes it an interesting snack alternative for those on diets like the Atkins diet.
Rocky Mountain Oysters
A touchy subject for young kids, but you may find them asking this question. When a young bull is castrated the resulting leftover “meat” is tenderized, usually breaded and then fried or baked. I first heard them called this name in Australia believe it or not, at a cattle ranch, where the farmer actually ate them RAW, but in the US they are cooked and served as a delicacy in the western cattle ranching states. They are also called prairie oysters, especially in Canada.
Pickled Pigs Feet
Feet. From a pig. Pickled in brine. Processed this way so that they do not require refrigeration. *shudders*
A delicacy sating back to the days of the French revolution, this is another “unique” food item that we can thank the French for. They are also served in some Asian cultures as well. The legs of a large frog, (known as the Edible Frog) are cut off and cooked. Because frog muscle tissue is normally cold blooded, it doesn’t get stiff as quickly as say chicken or beef when the frog is killed, so they are known to actually move on their own while being cooked. They are said to have a taste and texture similar to chicken.
A flavorful meat usually taken from the fatty tissue of an alligators tail. Harvested commercially in the state of Florida and imported all over the world, the American Alligator is a tasty and tender treat that can be cooked in a number of ways, from stews to chops. I’ve had it. ITS GOOD. It can be dry and chewy if not cooked right, but it takes well to marinating and braising or even a few minutes on the grill. You can even buy it commercially if you know where to look.
Fish eggs taken most often from a female sturgeon. The female fish is caught and handled extremely gently before death, because if she feels threatened, she excretes a sour tasting hormone that ruins the eggs before they can be harvested. Caviar is one of the most expensive substances known to man.
Truffles are a type of fungus, much like a mushroom that is primarily found in France and Italy, though some species are discovered here in the United States. They are found underground among the roots of trees, and are distinguished by color and flavor, known as white or black truffles. Orignally they could not be farmed by man, since no one quite understood how they were created, but discovered instead in the wild by hogs and trained dogs. They are now cultivated commercially and harvested. They can be eaten cooked or raw and have a very pungent strong aroma that is very much like a mushroom.
Also known as a Norwegian Omelet, Baked Alaska is a dessert featuring a very firm dense cake like a sponge cake, ice cream, and meringue topping that is put in a very hot oven until just browned on top. The meringue covering acts as an insulator and protects the ice cream from melting while it is under the broiler.
Blood sausage, or blood pudding or black pudding, is a type of sausage made from beef or pig blood that is cooked until thickened. The blood is then processed with other sausage friendly items like garlic, spices, and oatmeal or bread products, and then stuffed into pig intestine to make links. It is known for its very strong flavor and high levels of iron and protein.
Listen up kiddos! Today is the day you finally get to break all the rules, cast aside tradition, and really get your hands into the meat of my topic, today… you get to PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD.
Food art has been around for centuries. Since as long as there has been someone to present a beautiful dish to, there has been someone who was in charge of making the food look pretty. Kings and queens and ancient emperors didn’t eat gruel out of a bowl you know! Humans quickly learned that even the most tasteless food was made more palatable with the proper presentation, ie sticking an apple into that roasted pigs mouth, or arranging a small bit of fruit and cheese on a bed of lettuce. If you go to Google.com, you can type in two words, “Food Art”, click the images category, and then hit search. You wiill be absolutely amazed at what people can do with a pairing knife and a watermelon, or what happens when they use pudding as paint, or how even a charred steak can be beautiful!
So today grab some fruit and veggies, some whipped cream, some toothpicks and some sprinkles. Make a fruit face, or a cantaloupe pyramid, complete with broccoli trees and green pea rock walls. Decorate your plate with a scene from one of your favorite coloring books, but instead of crayons or colored pencils use a variety of different colored fruit to fill in the lines! Build a REAL waffle house, cut out little doors and windows, and decorate it with whipped cream, syrup, strawberry jam, or chocolate sauce. Make a mashed potato igloo, or carve your own unique creation using that “perfect-for-art” potato substance.
For a fabulous picnic lunch for you and a million friends cook up a hand ful of hot dogs and cut them into 5 little even pieces. Use pretzel sticks to make hot-dog people, then add lettuce leaf clothing, and pretty soon you’ve got a whole hot-dog pretzel army!
If you want to incorporate art into your breakfast make a big batch of pancake batter and use a turkey baster to make shapes and letters entirely out of pancakes. Heat a big griddle or wide skillet, and spray it with a little bit of cooking spray. Fill the baster with some batter, then slowly squeeze the rubber ball and drag the tip to make a big batch of pancakes that spell out your name! Make little pancake sheep, or a scary pancake monster.
If you really only want traditional circular pancakes you can even make them pretty with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and other toppings. Use the same methods that they use as restaurants like IHOP and Denny’s to make a chocolate chip smiley face, or fruit and whipped cream.
Don’t let anyone hold you back today, but try not to make a mess.