Friday, September 10, 2010

Labor (of Love) Day

We were halfway through our "freebie day" (the moms clubs tend not to schedule things on holidays, and my hubby was home) when I realized I hadn't hooked up with another mom to make jell-o and noodles for our moms club Sensory Playdate on Wednesday! My Tuesday was pretty busy, and it was already Monday, so I decided I had better try and do it myself. So I pulled the child out from in front of the TV (sadly, when daddy's home, it's pretty much what we do all day... When I stay home all day it's usually what we do too!)

Tasks: 3-4 packages of jell-o (generic) and up to 3 packages of assorted noodles. Ughhhhh.

First step: boil water. Both tasks required boiling water, so it seemed like a logical first step. However, let me fill you in a little on my ineptitude in the kitchen. To me, 'bring water to a boil' is not adequate instructions. You might as well say 'cook chicken.' What do I set the stovetop at? 5? 8? 10/High? I mean, I can boil water. Any idiot who can make heat can boil water. But I know that cooking something in water boiling on a 10 versus water boiling on an 8 might be called for in different recipes. So the noodle package was less than helpful. Since I was supposed to keep it at a boil for the noodles to cook, I opted for 8. I think I remember with rice you turn it down and cover, but don't quote me on that. Since, unlike rice, the amount of water in the pot doesn't have to be perfectly accurate, as long as it is too much versus too little, I let Little Z 'measure' it out.
(Ignore dirty dishes and counter mess. My regular house is in the shop.)

She got to help me pour the powdered gelatin packets into the bowl. I opted for 3. I used 2 orange and 1 strawberry. 

Add 3 cups boiling water (1 cup per packet). I did that part, since it was hot. Mix until dissolved. If nothing else, she is a pro at mixing!

Add 3 cups cold water (I forgot and just used whatever temperature came out of the tap) then stir and pour into whatever you wanted it to set in. I used a star-shaped ice cube tray to make some fun shapes and a long cake pan, since the kids mushing it around wouldn't care what kind of pan it had set in!

To help get it into the stars without getting everywhere else, I used my turkey baster, originally purchased for pancake making (found it!) Little Z quickly got the hang of squeezing the bulb to get the juice out, but more often than not, sucked it right back in! I also set the silicone ice cube tray (from Ikea, I think) in a square cake pan so that it wouldn't flop around, spilling the juice during its trip to the fridge.

(More mixing, just to be safe!)

Chill to set. I left it for a few days. I'd like to show pictures of my adorable little jell-o stars, but sadly, they were an epic fail. Either my jell-o was not firm enough to hold the shape, or the molds were too small. I'm leaning towards a combo of both.

Next up: Noodles! I used half a package each of linguini noodles, bow tie pasta noodles and rainbow spiral noodles (the one with orange and green noodles too) and tossed them in the pot. I added several tablespoons of salt (roughly half of what all 3 packages recommended for the full bags. Roughly 3.5 Tbsp total. (The linguini was 3 Tbsp/pack, the others were 2.) I then completely ignored the noodles, completely forgetting to bother with pesky little nuisances like cooking times.
They probably got overcooked. And there was some drama in the middle with screeching child and a desperate need for a toy or diaper change or something, so there were long stretches with no stirring. I ended up having to pull linguini apart one noodle at a time. Ughhhhh. I did remember to put some olive oil in the bag (didn't measure it. The jug only had a little left so I used it all.) Then hubby took the bag away and did some noodle deep-tissue massage while he watched TV so that all the noodles got thoroughly oiled.

Well... now what? Little Z has no patience for silly things like 'Let's wait while it cooks' or 'we need to let it freeze/cool first!' And I had some blackberries and strawberries from Saturday's Farmer's Market growing fuzzy in the fridge. So I looked in the back of my new cookbook "Fix-It and Forget-It", where the index has not only an alphabetical list by recipe name/type, but also by ingredient! There was nothing there for strawberries except a strawberry-rhubarb something, and, shucks! I'm just fresh out of rhubarb! But they had a blackberry-blueberry cobbler (appropriately named 'Black and Blue Cobbler') that I figured I could fake. This would be a great way to kill time and distract her from the setting jell-o.
I'm not sure what the rules are for reproducing recipes, but I changed it a little, so I'm gonna go for it!

Since I used red and black berries (instead of black and blue,) I'll call it:

Checkerboard Cobbler
(also shows the Black and Blue Cobbler recipe)
1c flour, 3/4c sugar, 1tsp baking powder, 1/4tsp salt, 1/4tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4tsp ground nutmeg, 2 eggs beaten, 2 Tbsp milk, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, 2c each fresh or frozen blueberries and blackberries [we used roughly a pint each (pre-sliced) of strawberries and blackberries, minus the ones that fell on the floor into the fuzzy corner, and minus the ones she ate first.] 1tsp grated orange peel [didn't have any, so skipped it,] 3/4c sugar.

Step 1: Slice strawberries. I set Z up on her own cutting board with a butter knife and showed her how to hold the berry and the knife to not cut herself (had it been a sharp knife,) and how to use a sawing motion to slice the berries. She did a pretty good job of mangling 2 berries, but did get some slices out of it. Meanwhile, I sliced the rest.

Step 2: Combine dry ingredients (except second 3/4c sugar.)
What we did: Mommy measures, Z dumps in flour. Dip in finger when Mommy was measuring next ingredient. Add sugar. Jab hand into mixture and eat as much as you can before mommy catches you.

Repeat with baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. She's getting very good at pouring the whole cup/spoon into the bowl, rather than shaking it like a maraca in the general vicinity of the bowl.

 Step 3: In separate bowl, beat 2 eggs. Combine eggs, milk and oil.
What we did: I let her bash the eggs against the side of the bowl until they cracked, then she hands them to me to open and 'pour.' She did a pretty good job of beating those eggs into submission while I got out the milk and oil.

Step 4: Stir into dry ingredients until 'moistened.' (Whatever that means.)
What we did: Little Z stirred a lot, but left a huge clump of dry at the bottom, so I scraped and mixed until it was all combined. In hindsight, we over-mixed it (which makes baked stuff tougher or chewier or something.)

Step 5: Spread batter evenly into bottom of greased slow-cooker.
What we did: Oh yeah. I forgot. At the very beginning, I used my silicone basting brush and a little canola oil in one of her drinking cups (from Ikea) and greased the ceramic bowl that goes in our slow-cooker. Yay me for actually reading (most of) the recipe in advance! Sadly, here's where I stopped pre-reading, so the next step was a shocking surprise for me. Enough so that I probably would have skipped the recipe altogether and let the fruit molder and get tossed later.

Step 6: In saucepan, combine berries, water, orange peel and 3/4c sugar.

Bring to a boil.
What we did: Whuuuuuuuck?! Real cooking? Stove top cooking is my arch nemesis (as is oven cooking.) Anything more complicated than 'On/Off' pretty much. Gah. Too late. In for a penny, in for a poundcake! I actually did okay. I let her dump in all the ingredients (except the orange peel. We didn't have any) and somehow managed not to burn down the kitchen destroy the berries!

Step 7: Remove from heat, pour over batter, cover.
What we did: As I didn't trip and douse us with boiling hot magma, one can assume I was able to follow the above instructions. Only the cover went to something else. We couldn't find the crock pot cover. It mostly fit okay.

Step 8: Cook on HIGH 2 to 2.5 hours, or until toothpick comes out clean. [This next part is important:] Turn off cooker.
What we did: Pretty much that. Except I have no toothpicks. So I jabbed a fork into it. It came out squeaky clean. (Literally.) Ruh-roh! The cobbler felt somewhat firm, and that's when I realized we must have over-mixed it. And I went above and beyond and unplugged it as well. And pushed it further back from the edge of Oompa-Loompa fingers demanding to reach for 'her' green bowl (the slow-cooker one) since she had already licked the mixing bowl clean, and remembered pouring the batter into the green one. Apparently, she thought it was her back-up batter, and not the purpose behind this endeavor.

Step 9: Uncover and let stand 30 minutes before serving.
What we did: Just as directed. I will warn you though. It looked disgusting. The strawberries looked blanched and sickly. Almost like a little berry brain. Gross.

Step 10: Have husband taste-test first. Well, it didn't say that. It actually said something more like "Tastes better with ice cream, moron. Aren't you glad you made sure you had some in the freezer first?"
What we did: Sadly, I didn't see the end part about ice cream or whipped cream optional, as again, I would have skipped bothering to make it for lack of ice cream, or at least sent someone out to get some while it cooked. It was a leeeeeeetle tough, but I spooned extra berry juice from the bottom over mine and it was definitely edible. I mean, I wasn't clamoring for seconds or anything, but I would have eaten more another time if someone hadn't left it out uncovered on the stove all night. [You know who you are!] It definitely would have been much better with ice cream. But it didn't neeeeeeed ice cream, if you know what I mean.

I would love to show you pictures of our fun Sensory Playdate, but there was a torrential downpour that morning and we didn't have a back-up indoor place planned. We planned it at a covered area at a park, but this rain was so bad, and it was so cold, it would have been criminal to let the kids play in jell-o, water and cold noodles out there. So now I have jumbo bags of corn flakes, fruity-o's, rice crispies and Cheerios (it was actually cheaper per pound to get the brand name with the sale and my coupons.) And Gallon-sized Ziplock baggies of cooked noodle medley and crushed Cheerios and fruity-o powder, frantically hand-smashed the night before with a meat tenderizer. (Since I don't have a food processor.) Hooray.

("Want some breakfast? How about cereal? Ooo yummmmm! Powdered cereal sludge! Eat up!")

Naturally, after cancelling, the sun came out within an hour of when it would have started.


  1. Just came over from Fix It and Forget It FB page. Loved reading your blog! Made me laugh so much and remember. My little girl that used to get in the kitchen with me now has 3 little ones doing it with her. I just love seeing little ones in the kitchen. Doesn't really matter how things turn out either! thank you!

  2. Haha Kathy, thanks! I decided when I started 'cooking' with my kid that I wouldn't care if we ruined it. You can't learn from mistakes if you are perfect! My sister can whip up a batch of jam, a batch of cookie dough (and cookies,) and re-boil my noodles with a home-made creme sauce, all while I boob around in the kitchen, getting in her way. I'm all proud that I thought to boil water for the jell-o and the noodles at once!

  3. Just came over from the fix-it and forget it on FB. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world. I have four little ones and now do not feel so terrible about our attempts at cooking. My oldest(age 4) loves to "help" in the kitchen. We have fun, and sometimes even end up with edible food. Thank you though this is very funny and is wonderful to read.

  4. Thanks Amy! The MOMS all laugh at my ineptness in the kitchen, and appreciate the irony that I've chosen to do the Kids Cooking Class with their toddlers and preschoolers, considering I totally suck, but they all tell me how much fun their kids have, and how much they appreciate me doing it. Even though I forget something important each time! (Pfft. Who needs plates or salt anyways?)
    I must admit, I do better with a mix. Box, oil, milk, egg. They even have pictures, for us dummies who can't read. But Z likes to add ingredients, and it's not as satisfying to her when we're all done after 30 seconds.


Go ahead! Tell me how awesome I am. Or ask a question. Whatever.

(Please note that I had to disable Anonymous comments. Too many spam comments coming through the filters.)