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I'm a runner with a baking habit.  I'm constantly on the lookout for awesome desserts, freezer friendly recipes to pack in the lunchbox, and quick dinner ideas.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Stained Glass Jello

Someone told me that jello desserts were a kind of status symbol back in the day.  If you could make jello, it meant that you were far up enough in the world to have a refrigerator instead of an icebox. The legend has always stuck with me, and was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the Brown Eyed Baker's post on broken glass jello. My second thought was that this was a Pinterest fail waiting to happen.  But inspired by the half empty box of Knox Gelatine that I've been hanging on to for years, I decided to try it anyway...and learned that jello is fun.

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
Yield: 22 stars
  • 2 boxes (3 oz each) red jello
  • 2 boxes (3 oz each) blue jello
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatine
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

You can, of course use any color combination that you want for your stained glass.  I went with Berry Blue and Strawberry as the theme for July 4th.

Early in the morning on July 3rd, I placed each color of jello in a small bowl.

And boiled up four cups of water.

I stirred two cups of boiling water into each jello (one cup for each 3 oz box if you were making more than two colors).

I poured the jello into ungreased 9"x13" pans and set them in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours.

The next step was to cut the jello into squares.  You don't need to make any effort to get a uniform size, since the squares are going to get mixed up and cut before we're through here.

I placed the squares in a 9"x13" pan.  The original recipe says to do this carefully.  I didn't use any special care, I just alternated handfuls of red and blue and made sure the colors were well mixed throughout the pan.

Now our old friend Knox Gelatine...

Place the two packets in a bowl and mix in a half cup of cold water.  Let it sit for a few minutes until it blooms.

I didn't remember what "blooms" means when it comes to jello.  It's the thing that happens after gelatine sits in water for a few minutes.

It gets thick like this.

Stir in 1½ cups boiling water until the gelatin is fully dissolved.  Now stir in the sweetened condensed milk.  Let it cool to room temperature.

The first time I made this, I had serious concerns about the off-white tint of the milk and thought I had been pranked by the recipe.  But no cause for alarm, I promise that the final result will be white.

Pour the gelatin mix over the squares.  Try to break up any bubbles that form, but don't be fanatical about it.  Also, some of the color may bleed through from the red and blue blocks, but don't worry about it.  Place the pan back in the fridge for a minimum of three hours.

Once the jello was firm, I covered the pan in saran wrap and left the land of the purple counter tops behind and took my jello on the road.

The next morning I embarked on the final step, cutting the jello into stars.  If you're in a less ambitious mood, feel free to call it a day at this point and just cut the jello into blocks.  

Press the cutter into the jello, twisting as needed to loosen it from the bottom.

Carefully lift the star out of the pan.

Cut out as many stars as you can.  I got 22, someone with better geometry skills could probably get more.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Shepherd's Pie

Continuing from last time when we talked about my love affair with potatoes, I have a soul warming dinner for you tonight.  Before that fateful night in the Irish Pub, I'd never had Shepherd's Pie, and wasn't quite sure what it was. When I saw a plate of tender meat nestled under a cloud of mashed potatoes, it was love at first sight.  Since then, I've tried many recipes, and never met one that I didn't like, but came to love Ellie Krieger's version a little more than all the rest, probably for the extra vegetables.  However, Ellie and I parted ways when it came to the mashed potatoes.  She uses a blend of potatoes and cauliflower, but I stuck with traditional spuds. This is a wonderful thing to take out of the oven on a cold night, and the leftovers are always a welcome thing to pull out of the freezer.

Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Yield: 5 servings

  • For the pie:
    • 1 pound ground beef (I used 96% lean) 
    • 2 teaspoons olive oil
    • 1 cup onion
    • 3 carrots
    • 8 oz mushrooms
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • ½ cup broth
    • 1 cup frozen peas
  • For mashed potatoes:
    • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 2-4 tablespoons sour cream
    • Onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste

Heat the oil on medium.  Cover the pot and cook the carrots and onion for eight minutes.

Peel the potatoes and chop into quarters.

Cover the potatoes with cold water, cover, and heat to boiling.  Once the water comes to a boil, uncover and turn the heat down to medium.

Chop the mushrooms into small pieces.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes.

Add the beef.

Cook until the meat is browned and the liquid from the mushrooms is mostly evaporated.

Stir in the flour and cook for two minutes.

Add in the broth and bring to a simmer.  At this point, start preheating the oven to 350° F.

Stir in the peas.  The liquid should be mostly cooked off, but if needed drain off the excess.

Meanwhile, check on the potatoes by poking them with a fork.  When they start to fall apart, they are ready.

Drain the spuds.

Mash in the butter, sour cream, onion powder, and salt.  Adjust quantities as needed for taste and mash until creamy.

Now make the magic happen.

Smooth the spuds over the meat.

And tuck it in the oven for 25 minutes.

And eat it up.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Breakfast Potatoes

Once upon a time, a special someone took me to an Irish pub.  Two plates landed on our table: Shepherd's Pie for him and a boxty for me.  I took a first bite of the potato pancake and felt the earth move.  I traded bites with my special someone and was lost in the bliss of mashed potatoes.  And then came a voice in my head, clear and unmistakable.  It said, "you don't eat enough potatoes."

I heeded the voice and set about getting more potatoes into my diet.  Along the way, I tried Budget Bytes's Country Breakfast Bowls, and found the backbone of this recipe: crispy potatoes that can be kept in the freezer and ready to go at a moment's notice. 

(Inspired by Budget Bytes)
Yield: 6 servings
  • 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder to taste


First, let's talk quantity.  The source recipe calls for three pounds of potatoes, which is just the right amount for me to make ahead and get eaten within standard freezer storage time (3 months?)  I really like Yukon Gold potatoes, which are sold in five pound bags, and happen to have a way to use two pounds of potatoes (see above hint about Shepherd's Pie).  But feel free to adjust the quantity based on the amount of potatoes you have on hand.

Preheat the oven to 400° F and scrub the spuds.

Dice into bite size pieces.

Place in a large, sealable container, working in batches if needed (three pounds of potatoes = two batches in my world).  Add a dash of olive oil (the tiniest drop will do) and shake to coat.

Follow up with seasonings.  I use a touch of pepper and garlic powder, a reasonable amount of salt, and a heck of a lot of onion powder.  Shake again until the potatoes are coated.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spread the spuds out.  Bake for one hour, stirring half way through.

The spuds will be golden brown and begging to be eaten.

 Allow to cool before filling your plate.

When completely cool, store the leftovers and place in the freezer.

To reheat the frozen spuds, simply microwave until heated, somewhere around 90 seconds - 2 minutes. 

 As for what to do with the spuds, here are a few ideas.  Option #1: top with scrambled eggs and cheese.

Option#2: make the eggs over easy and dip the spuds in the yolks.

 The possibilities are endless.