Monday, July 22, 2013

At Lease I've Got My Cooking: Fancy-Ass, Grownup-As-Hell Mojito Jello Shots

So as I said in my last entry, it was my birthday at the beginning of this month. And yes, Nosey Parker, I turned 31 years old, which is not the new 21 but is, in fact, still pretty great. As I mentioned, I'm not much bothered by aging, though the esthetician charged with waxing me last week swore that I looked much much younger, which, I'll admit, is a comfort. Thanks, Brittany.

To celebrate, I threw my first birthday party in at least a decade at the delightful casa de Sparta (our humble abode)*. I was reading about tips to make an outdoor party a success and came across a great list of rules that can apply to any party. I regrettably forget the website, but by far my favourite suggestion was to only make what you really love and buy everything else. I'd add to that: buy stuff that requires no prep wherever you can. Last party I made 2 hot dips, 1 cold dip, hot appetizers, cheese plate, punch, the whole deal. I didn't do any prep the day before so I spent the day of the shindig running around crazily, trying to time everything perfectly and ending up incredibly stressed out, to the point that I failed to pay attention while making the guacamole and sliced right through my thumb an hour before everyone arrived. This led to an overly-maddening last minute dash to finish everything without the use of my left hand, as well as the invention of at least 3 new swear words ("fucktumbler" was the stand-out)

This time around I decided to play it cool(er). My sister made posh cucumber sandwiches (which were so good that I instantly gave birth to the Royal Baby) and sangria (she's the sangria whisperer) and I made guacamole (cruelty free, this time) and smoked salmon dip (insanely easy and amazing). I had planned on buying mini cupcakes from one of the stores in town but that turned out to be one of those things I should have done ahead and instead resulted in me taking the bus to three different shops before I said "eff it" and made a dozen cherry chip cupcakes with cream cheese icing an hour before showtime. Faboo! I cut up some cheese, put some veggies on a tray, tossed out some crackers and chips, bought a 2-4, made mojito Jello shots and called it a day.

<record scratch>

Say what? Mojito Jello shots?

Oh yes, son.

I took my recipe from this fabulous website and I have to say - it turned out really well. I kind of want to make this my signature dish. Meatloaf be damned.

How we do?

6 limes
12-15 Mint leaves of average size
6 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 c. of water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 package of gelatin
1/2 c. of rum (I used a dark rum because it's what I had on hand, but I suspect a light rum would produce a clearer colour of "Jello")
1/2 c. sparkling water or club soda (I used lime Perrier). You could use still water too, in a pinch.

Tips N Tricks:

We began this process the night before the party (starting at 11:30 to be exact. Great time to try new things. Always.), in order to give the gelatin time to set. This isn't a "oh my god, I have to bring something to this bachelorette party and I only have an hour!" kind of thing. A bottle of Skinny Girl margarita mix is probably a better bet in that case.

I put the finished lime halves in an empty egg carton I had reserved for just this task. This way, any spillover was just fine - there was no "drip-through" and we recycled the egg carton when we were done with it. The webpage I linked to above uses a muffin tin with crumpled up foil inside the cups - I suspect that would do just fine as well.

If you're using fresh mint from your garden (this girl was), make sure you don't pick the mint leaves for garnish too early - they'll wilt after a couple of hours. Ask me how I know.

Break it Down:

1. Cut the limes in half lengthwise and scoop out their innards. Reserve the juicy lime innards and liquid in a bowl.

The most time-consuming part of this recipe is hollowing out the limes. We had three people on the task and it probably took 30-45 minutes for 6 limes. Bonus: you find out pretty immediately if you have any existing cuts on your fingers! What fun! I don't own a grapefruit spoon, but I bet it would be an awesome tool to have here. As it was, we used steak knives and soup spoons to do our carving. Flipping the almost-empty lime halves inside-out and scraping them with the spoon seemed to work well to get the last of it out. Don't worry if you can't get every bit out - it's fine. Make sure not to damage the lime peels too much - these are your showstoppers in this recipe, after all.

2. Wash the emptied lime halves and dry them lightly with a paper towel. Place the fruit cut-side up in your 'holder'.

3. In a small saucepan, combine the 12-15 mint leaves and the sugar. Muddle the hell out of it with a wooden spoon (or if you're some kind of domestic god/dess, use your fancy muddler). I used 12 leaves and I thought the end result could've used more mint, so next time I'd use 15 or so.

4. Add the quarter cup of water and the lime juice. I guess you could be fancy about straining out the pulp at this stage, but I just took a couple of spoonfuls from the bowl of lime innards. The shots still came out pretty damn clear.

5. Sprinkle the gelatin package over the top and let it sit there for a minute or so. Turn the stove on low and stir until the gelatin disappears, about 5-10 minutes.

6. Pour the liquid through a strainer into a container with a spout - I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. The strainer will get the lion's share of the mint and lime pulp.

7. Add the rum and sparkling water to the mixture and stir.

8. Pour the finished product into the lime halves, filling them to the top. I had a little more liquid than needed for the 6 limes/12 lime halves.

9. Carefully move your little beauties into the fridge. I left them there overnight so there'd be no last minute freakouts, but my (admittedly limited) experience with gelatin makes me think that 4 hours should be sufficient.

10. Carefully slice the lime wedges in half. I had thought I might do them in thirds but frankly, this size looked better.

11. If you're into garnishing, take the small mint leaves and affix them to the side of each shot.

12. Place on tray, serve, get daintily crunked.

The final result. I realize the plating is somewhat lacking but if you knew how I lived normally,
you'd be mega-impressed right now.

Final tip? Make sure to tell everyone that these are awesome "Jello" shots otherwise everyone will just quietly stare at them, thinking they're just a tray full of lime wedges and judge you for being a citrus-obsessed weirdo.

Enjoy, grown-up-fancy-ass-you!

*One guess which one of us gave it that name. One.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Mature: Started cleaning this bright and early the next day.
Immature: It took me most of a week to bother finishing
and I drank out of my hand in front of the sink when there
were no more clean cups.
The beginning of this month marked another year of  my continued existence, and for the first time since teenagedom, I threw myself a little shindig. It wasn't as big as our Christmas party and didn't require as much prep work, but it was really nice to try out the back"yard" and have some folks over.

Lily surveying the post-get together scene
(read: searching for dropped Doritos)
In the past, when birthdays rolled around, I would make entries about how "old" I felt at 21, 23, 26. I made those posts knowing full well that my life's work would be to build a time machine for the sole purpose of slapping those versions of myself in the face. And y'know, now that I'm in my 30s, I'm more okay about aging than I was then. Not that I'm peachy-keen on the mysterious marks that have shown up on my alabaster skin or the parts of my hair that are more "just for men" than I'd like, but I'm not too perturbed yet. I was never really a raving beauty, y'know? I'm not saying that to fish for compliments, I mean, I do okay with what I was given, but having never had a conventionally-envied face or body, I don't feel as bad as I might about "losing" any of that. Now, we'll talk in my 40s, but for now, the 30s feel pretty good.

And the past year has been kind of a big deal, really. I bought a house, moved in with TB and adopted a Hoover dog. And every one of those decisions gave me at least 2 mini panic attacks, but in retrospect, I'm so glad I went through with all of them. Our place really feels like a home now, and we feel more like a team than ever. Granted, 1/3 of our team doesn't pay a single goddamn bill, but she eats most of the stuff we drop on the ground so it pretty much evens out.

When I was little, I was always torn between this ache to be grownup and this fear that all the fun stuff in my life would disappear once I became an "adult". As the owner of a mortgage and a barbecue, I think I can officially call myself a grownup now, and I have to say, besides the early mornings and the bills, the overtime and the eating vegetables, being an adult is pretty awesome. Here's to another year of cocktails, dirty jokes, board games, Rock Band, pretty frocks, meaningful work, mini-vacations, deep talks, picnics, jello shots, fancy-ass dinners, lovely family, sexy shoes and perfect friends.

Bring it on, 31.

But first, a nap.