Saturday, May 31, 2014

Party time! Mexican Jello recipe

Hi everyone! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a fun recipe for you. ( I'm uploading this post in IE, so wish me luck... I've had to use Chrome for a few months. No idea why.)

Anyway, it's getting close to party time at my house. It's not a day, or a week, but more like a season. Most of the little people in this house were born during the summer months. (Cue the jokes on trying to stay warm all winter! It's true!!) So, from now until September, we're going to be PARTY CENTRAL.
But first, I have to say, this is my month for movies. I already went to see Divergent for my birthday, and that was fun! And now the same friend asked to meet for Maleficent. I'd rather see The Fault in Our Stars, but since I still have a head cold and sobbing might kill me, I agreed. I'll let you know how it is! I love a villain remade into a hero (or heroine). I have high hopes.
Remember the picture I posted on Tuesday? I decided to try it out! It was actually MUCH easier than I thought it would be. So, here is a quick tutorial. I won't bother with the steps on how to make the Jello. We all probably know how to do that. I used the Jiggler recipe on the side of the box.
 I didn't need to clear out a whole shelf in the fridge because I have stacking Tupperware. How great is this?? So, I mixed up the Jigglers, put on the tops, and stacked them in the fridge. I left them overnight but I'm sure it would be fine after a few hours.

 When I brought them out of the fridge, the little guys had to smell each one to see which was the yummiest. Verdict? Black Cherry!
 Carefully cut into cubes and put in a small pan. I wanted to share this with friends so we doubled the recipe. I used the top and bottom plastic pieces of a cookie container from the store. (Yes, I bought cookies. And no, they weren't really good. Live and learn. That's what I get for shopping hungry!)
 Kav, this picture is for you. :)
 Now, after you've placed lots of little squares of different flavors in the containers, get out your plain Knox gelatin. You'll need two small packets for every can of sweetened condensed milk. Since I doubled the batch, I added four packets to one cup of cold water.

Stir until the gelatin starts to come together in little grainy bits. (Like my nails? My daughters' pen pal, Tessa, from Germany, sent them a packet of nail doodads. We're not nail people. But suddenly, it looked like a good time! We had a lot of fun decorating ourselves. And see, they match my kitchen!)
 No, add two cans sweetened condensed milk to 3 cups boiling water (or one can condensed milk to 1 1/2 cups boiling water). Stir until throughly mixed.
   (Now, I've had this before when it was made by friends of ours and I could swear the white jello had a flavor. But the recipe I got from the internet didn't add anything to it, so I didn't. Asking my friend later, she said you can add vanilla or any other flavor or color. I thought so! I'll do that next time.)
 Pour the milk and gelatin mix over the Jello pieces. Make sure they're all submerged.

 Like so. I can see bits and pieces where I wasn't very careful cutting or dropping them in. Uh oh. I hope it works!
 After a night in the fridge, they looked like this!

A small person (who has a birthday coming!) loved this dish! He's a picky eater and although he did pick out all the lime bits, he loved the dessert. Score!
 Close up for effect. It really smelled delicious. Sort of a fruity, milky summer smell.
So, I think this was a winning recipe but something else I saw on the site really caught my attention. Has anyone else wanted to recreate Turkish delight, like in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe?? The same site had a link to Sparkly Fruit Gummies!

Do these look fun or what?? They just scream "summer treat" to me! And our region is famous for our Aplets and Cotlets so I want to try those, too. I've had a recipe for a long time, but I haven't been brave enough to try. But somehow, these look easier!

Ok, we're off to watch the movie. I'll let you know how it is. Anybody else watch a movie lately? Maybe I'll become a movie person and watch a movie every week. Then my posts would be a recipe and movie review, hahaha!

Until next next time!

Friday, May 30, 2014

See Rock City!

Missy, here. I just returned from a visit to my parents' house in Kentucky. It's always such a beautiful drive from Georgia, up through Chattanooga, Tennessee, over Monteagle, then to Nashville and on up to Bowling Green, Kentucky (where I grew up and went to college).

Along the way, the rolling hills, mountains and acres of farmland call out to me, drawing me home. I think the mountains are in my DNA (I was born in the mountains of eastern Kentucky). But as I get closer to Bowling Green, the rolling fields of corn reach out to me, embracing me, giving me a sense of familiarity and peace .

I wish I could show you some photos. But each time I snap any, they never turn out as majestic as the actual view. I did try snapping a photo on a previous trip of one of the "See Rock City" signs on the side of a barn. It's situated beside a beautiful lake, and everything around it is so green. Unfortunately, the photo is taken while moving, and through a tinted, dirty windshield, and with the bridge in the foreground.

Zoom in and see if you can read the barn roof advertising Rock City. :) If you've ever driven along I-24 (and beyond!), you've seen the signs all over the place. It's fun to spot them, especially on barns. You can read the barn painting story (click here).

Since I was gone a good portion of this week, I only have my dad's cooking to share. For years, he's made us his homemade version of Egg McMuffins from McDonald's whenever we visit.

My dad and I made our version…

FIRST OFF, A SAFETY WARNING!! Do not singe off eyebrows while lighting gas stove!!! No, I don't cook with gas here, so it's always a learning curve when I go home. :)

Cook English muffins, split and buttered in a skillet. My dad has a weight to press them so they get crispy and YUMMY.

Fry an egg, trying to keep it muffin shaped.

Okay, so I didn't do so well cracking it into the skillet and keeping it round. My dad cut off the browned egg white to keep it round. Which was the best part! (Yes, I ate those edges!) And yes, I seem to get my perfectionist tendencies from my dad. :)

Top the muffin with a slice of American cheese. Then add sliced ham (we just use lunch meat or a baked ham, whatever we have available). This time, we used deli meat.

Now comes that nicely trimmed egg.

Top with the other half of the muffin and enjoy!

Oh, and here is the last bloom of my mom's peonies.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Stuffed Grahams!!!!!!! Yes!!! You love me!!!!!



"Safely Home" my third independent novel (and the first Watkins Ridge book!!!) is FREEEEEEE!!!! Feel free to jump over to Amazon, download the book to your Kindle or Whisper net on your computer (the software is a free download on Amazon) and grab Alex and Cress's wonderful story of coming home to a whole new beginning, a beginning God planned despite Cress's somewhat tough record of BAD CHOICES...

I love that heroine to pieces!!!!

Okay, back to the chocolate dipped amazingness!!!!

Oh, look, spell-check doesn't like my word "AMAZINGNESS" but these are all that and more!!!

First you need to melt chocolate chips or wafers or white chocolate chips for dipping. Then you use either Ritz crackers or Graham crackers broken in half for your crunchy cookie bottom. Dip them into the delicious melty chocolate and lay them undipped side down on a foil lined pan. Let cool or tuck them in fridge to cool. Don't freeze, freezing will crack the chocolate. It's in a DELICATE, SENSITIVE state right now, like me!!!  :)


Take one cup peanut butter. Mix with 2/3 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons butter. Mix thoroughly. When coated crackers are firm, add a teaspoon or so of the peanut butter mix to the uncoated side of the cracker. Then spoon melted chocolate over the peanut butter, letting it drip to the cracker below. Cover the whole cracker side, and then let it cool again.

(the mix I have pictured above is a little different. It has peanut butter, crushed chocolate graham cracker wafers, the powdered sugar and the butter, so it looks funny but it was REALLY GOOD!!!!)

 Now, these have the melted Ghirardelli chips spooned over them:

And here is a plate full for my moms to try and give me their opinion!!!!

This is what they looked like inside:

And with the rest of the melted chips I made roasted, salted almond bark:

I mixed in a few hands full of the roasted Wonderful almonds and spread the chocolate/almond mix out on paper. Once it was hard, I broke it apart...

Oh. So. Good!!!!!  :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Club Foodies

I love being a part of a book club where we actually discuss the book we read.  We may go on tangents but we read everything from non-fiction history to literary fiction to YA. We love diverse characters and stories that make us think.  
Love these women.
We are not a wine and cheese book club or a no-food book club.  Thanks to various food challenges, we have become a gourmet healthy eating book club.

Fresh fruit, grain or legume-based salads, seasonal veggies, excellent dips, and peanuts in the shell. Yes, peanuts. We are now addicted. My friends make sure there is something wheat and corn free that I can enjoy. Another reason to love these gals.

One of my new favorite salads is from my friend Cathy. We've known each other over three decades. Pre-children! Pre-life changes! It's great to have long time friends. Her quinoa and black bean salad is the bomb. But I still tweaked it a bit since the original calls for sugar and butter. Trying to minimize those in our diet.

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

2 tsp. grated lime zest
2 T. fresh lime juice
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1 cup quinoa
1 (14- to 15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 med. tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
Whisk together lime zest and juice, butter oil, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a large bowl.
Wash quinoa in cold water,drain in a sieve. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
Add quinoa to dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 (side dish) servings.

What about you? Are you in a book club? Do you read a lot of different books or focus on one genre? Do you bring the same dish every time or mix things up?


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Starbucks Gingerbread Coffee plus Summer Jello Ideas

Hello, everybody! I'm baaaaaaaack with a post that is less "recipe" and more "life instructional". All of the goodies here today aren't anything difficult but boy-oh-boy can they make your life a little bit sweeter.
First of all, Starbucks gingerbread latte mix. My friend Mindy brought this over. She found the recipe on Pinterest and decided to try it out. (I love when my friends try out recipes and then bring me the results. I didn't even WORK for this!) 

1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
(This is what we're trying to recreate. Can you smell it??)

So, you mix it all together in a large container. Large because it will start to rise a la those old volcano science fair projects!
 You can keep it on the counter, or in the fridge. It will separate, but just stir it back together. Add to a latte to make your very own home made Starbucks gingerbread latte! This weekend I was battle the WORLD'S WORST HEAD COLD. So, I was trying to stay hydrated, sipping hot drinks to soothe my throat and doing my best not to hack on anybody. I even tried a spoonful of this in steamed milk. Ohhhhhh, yummy. 

Passing along this sort of recipe gets you nice Christmas presents. Just sayin', my friends!
Now, usually I'm Sally Hawkins playing Anne Elliott in Persuasion (2007) but for the past month I've been working on a young adult project/ course with Franny Billingsley. I've had to put away my regency things and...
pretend I was high on a mountain top in Japan, surrounded by macaques. (That's me on the left. Looking tired.) You can watch these funny guys on a live web cam here. Seriously, click the link. It's a hoot. When I'm up late writing, I like to click on the live cam an watch the macaques hang out in their natural hot tub. (Who says writers are boring, eh??)

The Kuromon Gate of Mt. Atago, where my story is set. 
Anyway, that deadline was Monday and I felt the need to celebrate everything (I hope) I've learned.  Things like a believable plot, characters with hidden agendas (even from themselves) and world-building beyond a few houses or naming a state. 
 I really wanted to make some Mexican jello, like this tutorial in ourbestbites but didn't have an condensed milk or plain gelatin.
So, I decided to make something more like this. 
 But I really did want to make some kind of jello treat so I decided to try something I saw on Pinterest. Cue the fail music, right? No, I was determined to make something pretty AND tasty.
 Now, I'm sure this post will have something that someone is allergic to, or is swearing off, or can't have right now. So, enjoy some fresh fruit while you read. Here, raspberries! They're not in season, though and taste a bit... bland.
 The blueberries are better. Not as good as the blueberries we get from the blueberry farm but these were close enough that we all started reminiscing about our time at the blueberry farm. WE CAN'T WAIT!!

 Strawberries. Freshly washed, ready to be chopped. The little guys were eating them out of hand, but I convinced them to save a few.
 Ok, the first Pinterest recipe had strawberries, blueberries and whipped topping in a pretty little display. I tried it. This is what I got. On of my kids said it looked like a fruit crab with eye stalks. Hmmm... Now it's looking at me.
 Ana was afraid all the fruit would be used in something that would be, in the en, inedible, so she tossed some in a bowl. The blackberries were just sweet enough that we decided we MUST make an effort this year to pick enough to freeze. We always say we will, but then it's 105F and nobody wants to stand out in the hot son, fighting off the wasps, and pricking their fingers.
 I tried another recipe I saw on Pinterest. Blue jello, red strawberries. Looks okay.
 I let it sit for a while. And then I added red jello.
 Ok, apparently it wasn't set enough. I decided that was another "fail". Nobody even wanted to eat it. Out it went.
 Third time's the charm!! Blue jello in jam jars and THIS TIME I waited an hour or two for them to set. (See? That's why the post is late. I has nothing to do with the fact I forgot I was here in the cafe today. :)
 After it's set (like, really, really set) cover with whipped topping and put strawberries or raspberries on top.

You can even turn them sideways and pretend it's for Bastille Day! 
No? Oh, okay...

I hope you find something to give your day a little bit of fun this week and let me know if you've found a great, fool-proof recipe lately!