Originally posted September 21, 2009
Note: In honor of Blizzard Juno… er, Juno the Blizzard…. (I do not approve of the new practice of naming winter storms) I bring you Orange Snow. Always remember the sage advice of Frank Zappa, “Watch out where the huskies go…”
Finally, a recipe that makes me smile! This one has a lot going for it. It has mostly real, simple ingredients – orange jello, orange juice, a little orange zest, and an egg white. It’s delightfully light and fluffy. It even tastes good, like orange sherbet.
It was fun to make. I prepared the jello, dissolving the gelatin in a cup of boiling water. I added the juice and zest, and cooled it over an ice water bath until it was “slightly thick.” In jello parlance this means “about the same consistency as a raw egg white,” so it’s a good thing I had one handy for comparison. At this point, I had to add the egg white to the jello and, still over the ice water bath, I beat it all up to a lovely thick froth using another of our antique market finds, a 56-year-old Sunbeam Mixmaster Junior. Per the recipe, I piled the froth lightly into my Blue Heaven custard cups (and a parfait glass – there was a lot of froth there) and popped it all into the fridge. The next day, there it was, Orange Snow.
It had about the same texture as hair mousse, which I found kind of fun, and as I said, the flavor was actually quite pleasant. I would guess that this was helped in large part by the fact that about half of the orange juice was fresh-squeezed (from the orange I had zested.) Bryan ate it without any of the usual pissing and moaning, although he didn’t want seconds. This was ready on Sunday, and I ended up eating the rest of it over the course of the day. There was so much air in it that it wasn’t very filling, and the real beauty part is that it was largely guilt-free. The Jell-O was sugar free (because that was all the market had for orange Jell-O when I bought it) and the other ingredients were orange juice and an egg white; in other words, breakfast.
Bryan’s Variation: Use lemon jello, substitute lemonade for the orange juice and lemon zest for the orange zest. Call it Yellow Snow.
Okay, it’s been a while since I posted something new/original. Not to make excuses, but the holidays and the onset of winter are not a particularly joyful time for me. Maybe it would have been more joyful with Jell-O, I don’t know.
In addition to the usual winter blues, in mid-December I managed to strain a hamstring while doing sumo-style deadlifts. That, in combination with a fairly disruptive major renovation of my gym, has pretty thoroughly derailed my lifting program, so for about a month I’ve been foundering on the fitness front. Hence, fewer endorphins and significantly less joy than usual. In theory, I could have been spending time writing while waiting for my hamstring to heal. In theory.
So what have I been doing instead? Alas, I’ve been playing Candy Crush Soda Saga on my iPad. That might seem like a logical move for someone who has a blog about making Jell-O, but, contrary to what some readers might imagine, I’m not really the house-wifey type. I seldom wear cardigans. I think crafting is lame. As far as video games go, while puzzles are fine for passing time, the ones I’ve most thoroughly enjoyed have been horror-themed shooters (American McGee’s Alice, Undying, and, more recently, the BioShock series).
I started playing the original Candy Crush because a friend was playing, and I got mildly (and pointlessly, considering she had a head start) competitive with her for a while. Also, I wanted to see how far I could get in the game without making in-game purchases after learning that some large percentage of players made it through the 500+ levels without paying for anything. (Yes, I’m a cheapskate.) Eventually I got bored with the game, and annoyed by things like the way it told me I “failed” when I didn’t clear a level, and certain levels that made chocolate an enemy of sorts. I love chocolate and didn’t like the feeling of dreading it. I gave up at level 140 and moved on to other things.
Recently, King.com has been making a big advertising push on TV, and it is with deep shame that I admit that I allowed myself to be tempted to download Soda Saga. To be fair, there are improvements over the original game – the player gets to “eat the chocolate”, and if you don’t clear a level, it says, “You’ll get it next time!” It expands on the original, adding new pieces, new level styles, and new challenges.
As I play, I’m aware of being manipulated. I know that the bright colors and softly rounded shapes were designed to look irresistibly and addictively appealing. The cheerful explosions, often accompanied by little major-key musical trills, go straight through my ears to the pleasure centers of my brain. Then there’s the deep, seductive male voice offering occasional praise, declaring the game to be “sweet”, “juicy”, or “tasty”. When I finish a level and he declares “Soda Crush!” there’s an undertone of “You’re getting something good, sexy lady…” (Bryan finds the voice “creepy”.) How else to explain my willingness to compulsively play through as many times as I can (for free)? I can easily resist buying extra lives, special pieces and so forth, but I can see how the game was designed to keep people (okay, women) on the hook.
Hard-core gamers engage in a process they call “grinding”, which is simply performing some repetitive task (a puzzle, say, or fighting a horde of enemies) in order to accomplish an objective or to “level up”. Such gamers dismiss players of games like Candy Crush as “casual gamers”, but I’m realizing that repeating a level of Soda Saga is as much grinding as is fighting through a crowd of Splicers in BioShock.
In fact, Soda Saga is almost all grinding. Too much of the game involves luck, so I end up doing a lot of the touch-screen equivalent of button-mashing. Without paying for special pieces or extra moves, getting the needed explodey things (in the right order, yet) is largely the luck of the draw and out of my control. On some levels, I get to a point where I’m about ready to give up, and then the game seems to sense this and I’m finally able to complete the level. The game rewards me with colorful explosions and seductive-sounding praise and happy little cartoon characters and suddenly I have the will to move on to the next level. Even so, the grinding is, well, a grind. My favorite part of the game is that every once in a while there’s a level where, when you’ve completed it, you can’t play again for three days. (As Bryan pointed out, there are easier ways to manage that, but I say that would be cheating.)
In the dead of winter, it’s easy to see life that way – lots of time spent grinding, some respites here and there, and then, at last, the happy explodey bits that give one the will to go on. January is just not explodey enough.
Originally posted January 16, 2010
Note: Almost exactly five years later, I’m reposting this about a week after my birthday. I didn’t have any Jell-O for my birthday this year, which doesn’t exactly compensate for being five years older, but it’s something.
I guess I’m just not as smart as I sometimes think I am. You’d think I would have learned my lesson with the Jell-O brunch, but with this confluence of recipes on the schedule, I couldn’t resist doing another “theme” post. I must say, though, that unless I pick up the pace I’m going to have to Tom Sawyer a bunch of unwitting friends and acquaintances into attending a Jell-O buffet – and nobody wants that…
Spanish Tuna Salad
Don’t ask me what makes this salad “Spanish,” because I honestly don’t know. As I work through The New Joys of Jell-O, I often have the impression that recipes were named (and/or developed) using a process akin to Mad Libs.
Spanish Tuna Salad is your basic “things suspended in Jell-O,” savory style – tuna, diced tomato, chopped celery and scallion, and, in theory, small strips of cucumber. However, the cucumber Bryan selected from the bin at the supermarket turned out to be a zucchini, so I just went with that. I suspect it could only have improved the dish. The chopped vegetables (which I “eyeballed” rather than measured, taking care only to not skimp) and chunks of white albacore tuna were added to a thickened lemon Jell-O that had been seasoned with pepper and vinegar. This was put into individual gelatin molds and left in the fridge to chill overnight. Probably the best thing I can say about Spanish Tuna Salad is that it gave Bryan a night off from cooking. The next best thing I can say is that it wasn’t as bad as the Salmon Dill Mousse (although Bryan disagreed with me on this). It looked like some sort of kooky diet dish from a recipe out of a 1970s-vintage issue of Ladies Home Journal, and as has been the problem with the savory Jell-Os so far, the sweetness of the Jell-O was not sufficiently cut by the seasonings and other ingredients. I found the flavor too complicated, the sweet lemon gelatin bumping rudely against the tuna and the celery. The texture wasn’t as creepy as that of the Salmon Dill Mousse, but it still wasn’t remotely pleasant to eat. My overall impression was that this was the sort of thing a young housewife of forty years ago would have made if she didn’t know any better, having married young and gone directly from living with her parents to living with her husband. Once I’d formed this impression, I felt like a bit of a chump.
Key Lime Pie
First, a disclaimer: Yes, I know what key lime pie is, and I know that this isn’t really it. Again, it was those crazy GF R&D drones who named the recipes, not me. When I was making up my schedule, I tried to balance the weird, scary, and outright offensive-sounding recipes with the kinder, gentler ones, hence the pairing of Spanish Tuna Salad with Key Lime Pie. Also, I like lime, so I decided to schedule that one for my birthday. We ended up eating it the day after – close enough. Key Lime Pie sounded like it would be a bit of all right, especially since the recipe calls for two teaspoons of lime zest and a half-cup of lime juice. I juiced the limes I used for zesting, so this had a bracing quantity of fresh, genuine flavoring. The zest and juice, plus a teaspoon of aromatic bitters (don’t ask) were added to lime Jell-O, and the hot liquid was stirred gradually into a well-beaten egg yolk. (I managed not to cook the egg this time – hooray!) This was chilled over an ice water bath until it was slightly thick, and then a can of sweetened condensed milk was stirred into it. Finally, a beaten egg white was folded into the mixture and the lot was poured into a pre-baked pie shell (again, a store-bought crust from the freezer case) and popped into the fridge to chill and firm up.
When I first tasted it, it seemed to me that the real and fake lime flavors clashed a bit on the palate, but I quickly got used to that. Otherwise, it wasn’t bad at all. The real juice and zest gave the pie a nice dash of acidity, and the sweetened condensed milk gave it firmness without the peculiar artificial flavors of Cool Whip or Dream Whip. The recipe recommended garnishing the pie with Dream Whip, and while I did kind of regret presenting a plain pie in the photograph here, it was a relief to eat a Jell-O dessert without Dream Whip in it. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of Key Lime Pie you would expect to get in a good restaurant in Florida, it was a reasonable consolation after eating the Spanish Tuna Salad.
Bryan took seconds.