Sky Rockets at Night, Tropical Delight (Salad)

In which I settle on Jell-O as a more practical option.

You know those days where you just feel like a tropical vacation would cancel the subscriptions to all of your issues?  Where you just sort of want to run away and be responsible for nothing and no one? I don’t.  I’ve never had one of those moments in my entire life.  I have never wanted to sit on a sunbaked beach with nothing around but the sound of waves crashing.  Never wanted to relax with an icy drink in my hand brought to me by a super cute cabana boy with a slim, tanned body, who I know is not just something pretty to look at, but should be respected for his mind and his hustle.  Never have I ever not wanted to get up early every morning, make sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do while I try to get myself ready and do what I can to prepare us for the evening.  The very idea of not having to commute and…I can’t go on.  If someone told me that I was going to be trading all of this for an all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island, I might hesitate while I decided if I really wanted to go swimsuit shopping.  I’d probably try to find a bunch of excuses as to why I really shouldn’t, but I don’t think I would pass it up.  Tropical Delight Salad top

As I stare out at my snow covered yard and see my children cuddled up on the couch in matching blankets, I realize that while I would love to get away, the closest I may come for a while is probably going to be in something like the Tropical Delight Salad.

I have always been attracted to tropical flavors.  Pina Colada and I have been hitting it pretty hot and heavy since I was a young girl.  When picking out yogurt with my mom, I would always opt for the pina colada fruit on the bottom yogurt.  It seemed like a special treat.  After realizing that the red food coloring in Jolly Good Fruit Punch and Faygo Red Pop made me throw up, I discovered Jolly Good Pina Colada soda.  They don’t even make it any more, but there is something about that sickly sweet pineapple coconut combination that satisfies me.  Sadly this recipe does not call for coconut, but it would be a nice addition, especially if it was toasted.Tropical Delight Salad gnomesAnd now I have an idea for a roasted pineapple and toasted coconut something…cocktail? Bread?  Meringue Pie?  This is an ongoing problem.  I start out doing something and then get majorly inspired by something completely different and get too excited to start that and want to forget about what it was I was doing in the first place.  I am working harder at trying to finish things before I start something new.  It’s killing me in my knitting right now.  The biggest problem I have is that I have too many ideas and there is only me that can carry them out.  It’s all just time and money, right?Tropical Delight Salad Chinese LanternOk, back on track.  A couple of things to note.  Pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple probably works better than pineapple chunks.  And if you haven’t read the Jell-O package (and these are small ones, not big ones in this recipe), do not attempt to use fresh pineapple.  Most tropical fruits contain enzymes which counteract the gelling property of gelatin.  If you want something like a slimy soup, that’s probably fine, but even despite my protests of not caring for Jell-O, I still prefer it to be gelled.  The enzymes are useful for other things, though, like tenderizing meat (mmmm…al pastor). But this is also the same thing that makes some people very sensitive to eating too much raw fruit. Tropical Delight Salad angleAlso…The topping of the Tropical Delight Salad is really good.  Don’t skip that step.  Even if you decide you want to change the flavor of the Jell-O, or decide not to use bananas, or oranges, do not change the topping.  Tropical Delight Salad

If you are hardcore on Jell-O recipes and want to see what else I’ve done, check out these posts.  Cooked Cranberry Salad and Frosty Lime Salad.  If you really want to gelatinize everything check out the Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf.  (Although I don’t actually recommend making it, but you should see that this exists.)

Something New…

I think you all know that I feel that I found Mr. Right when I re-met my husband after originally meeting him as a teenager, but what if I told you that I think I’d also found Mr. Write?

We’d been talking about random joint projects for a while and have collaborated on game ideas and joke telling and all sorts of random hijinks.  Sometime in the next week, I will be posting a link to our hopefully fun new adventure.  It’s going to require some group participation, so I hope you are ready.  Marriage of the Year

Party Cookies for the Super (Punch) Bowl

In which we prepare for the Big Game.

As most of you know, the Super Bowl is on Sunday.  For those of you who don’t know (like a lot of my family), there are a bunch of great commercials on TV on Sunday interrupted by a sportsball game.  Whatever your plans, whoever your team, chances are people are going to want to eat.  (Just a hint, people always want to eat.) M&M Party Cookies on plate

I have punch recipes.  I have a lot of punch recipes.  I have more punch recipes than I have occasions to have punch.  I’m going to need to start having more occasions. Maybe I need to celebrate small things like learning a new Spanish vocabulary word or not falling down the stairs.  Lime Punch BowlA few years ago, I bought a double drink dispenser for the kids’ birthday party.  I served both iced tea and lemonade with flavored simple syrups so that party guests could have whatever combination they wanted to drink. The only reason I bring this up is because the dispenser works equally well for holding a single beverage, like Lime Punch.  I hesitate to even refer to this as a recipe.  It’s something small children can make easily and probably have made a version of it at a soda fountain at some point.  Heck, these days, there are those dispensers that will do it for you.  It’s limeade and lemon-lime soda.  I suppose someone could get all fancy and use ginger ale, except as my mom experienced, ginger ale is not available in all parts of Iowa.  Use ginger beer and you have the non-alcoholic version of a Moscow Mule.  You could even serve it in fancy copper mugs.  (We didn’t.  I think we used red solo cups.) (We also didn’t use ginger beer.)Lime PunchOk, about those cookies.  When the boys were little we took them out to a restaurant on a Friday night.  The kids meals came with a choice of dessert.  One boy ordered a chocolate chip cookie before he was told the options and the other chose an M&M cookie after listening to his choices.  In order to prevent a jealous fight (which was more common in those days than it is now) we asked if the waitress could please just bring us 2 M&M cookies.  She did as we asked and the younger boy started crying.  “I don’t like M&M cookies.”  We struggled to console him.  “I thought you did.”  “I don’t…except on Fridays” he wailed.  “It is Friday,” we told him gently.  Immediately the tears dried up.  “Ok,” he said and happily munched his M&M cookie as we looked on bewildered.  You’d think after that sort of quick mood shift I’d be more ready for their preteen hormones.M&M Party Cookies close upWhether it’s Friday night or Sunday afternoon, dry your tears and make these cookies.  If you buy a big bag of M&M’s you may be able to pick out your team colors for the cookies.  (which means you also get to snack on all those other colors.) For those of you who are aware of such things, I made this recipe some time before “our” team was eliminated from the Super Bowl.  (You can probably even guess which team we cheer for).  M&M Party Cookies (2)

M&M Party Cookies

Rough Day: Egg Dumplings

In which I get lucky.

Let’s talk comfort.  The past week and a half or so have been incredibly difficult for lot of little reasons.DSCN3194Lately I’ve been finding pennies on the ground.  Lots of pennies.  Not all at once, just one here and there.  I know everyone finds pennies on the ground, it’s not an unusual thing.  It’s the frequency that has made this noteworthy.

A few weeks ago, while cleaning the bathroom, I was sweeping under the vanity.  I have done this at least weekly since we moved into the house.  You’d figure that by this time I would’ve swept up anything that was under it.  On this particular day, however, a penny appeared.  Not just any penny.  But a penny that must’ve been from some sort of experiment.  It was silver around the edges and still copper in the middle.  “Pennies from Heaven,” I thought tucking it into my jeans pocket.

Last fall while doing some last minute planting, I dug up a penny that was barely recognizable as a penny.  I showed the boys and tucked that one into my pocket.



In the last few weeks, I have been picking up pennies all over.  Right by my foot as I’m getting into the car in a parking lot.  Right by my coworker’s foot in the work kitchen.  Under my desk.  On the side of the road.  Pennies that didn’t exist that suddenly appear while I’m cleaning.  They always end up in the pocket of my jeans.

There is a certain comfort in these pennies.  It’s not a comfort of financial security, because all told, I’m probably about 50 cents richer for the experience.  Pennies aren’t worth what they used to be.  I’m probably finding them because other people don’t care that they are losing them.  So why am I looking for a sign or meaning in it?  Why do I find such pleasure in something that the previous owner thought nothing of?  I have read stories where people find pennies and know that loved ones are communicating to them from beyond the grave.  “Maybe it’s a sign,” I think.  “As long as I keep finding pennies, I’m on the right track in life.”  Or maybe not, regardless, I feel a little more cozy and secure every time I find one.

It’s like chicken soup.  I mean, they even wrote a series of books about the sort of comfort chicken soup provides.  I was not a chicken soup fan as a child.  I was the worst sort of ungrateful brat that turned my nose up at homemade chicken soup with homemade noodles. I would only eat creamy soups or stews or pretentious things like French Onion soup with melted Gruyere over the top, but only if the cheese was slightly browned.  I clearly had no idea how good I had it that I even had those options.  Thank goodness I grew up and learned to appreciate the gift my mom gave me with that soup. DSCN3198

I had my oldest help me make chicken broth a while back.  He was proud of himself for accomplishing something so great.  I was proud of him for having the confidence to approach fundamental cooking. As soon as the stock was finished and strained, I made him some soup and put the rest of the stock into the freezer. I debated breaking out a recipe for homemade noodles, but the idea of rolling out noodles even with the help of my pasta maker seemed intimidating for that day.  Dumplings seemed more accessible. Normally, I make my chicken and dumplings traditionally with a creamy broth, but this felt like a clear soup sort of day.

Before you wonder too much, the thing that looks like a bug floating in the broth is a piece of thyme.  I am not going to edit it out. (My husband suggested that I insert a joke here about not having enough “thyme” to edit it out, but I’m seasoned enough to know that peppering this post with ridiculous puns will make some of you salty.)

DSCN3196There is something about the addition of eggs to a basic dumpling recipe that elevates it.  I am betting these dumplings would make a can of soup better.  I have a dear friend that told me she fails when she makes dumplings.  I’m going to gently encourage her to try this recipe.  Keep the soup hot, keep the lid on and just let them cook.  You should end up with a fully cooked slightly moist biscuity dumpling.  It’s perfect comfort for those really rough days.Egg Dumplings