Thursday, June 26, 2008

Best Ever Cathedral Windows

**This post has been updated with new photos. 1/12/14

For as far back as I can remember, this wonderful dessert had always been a part of every family gathering. This was my late aunt's specialty. I can still clearly remember watching her as a young child assemble the jelly in their kitchen. I've seen, tested and tasted different versions of cathedral windows, but nothing else ever compared to this one. I do believe the recipe was my aunt's own. I am not kidding...this is the best.

The 'secret' recipe, of course, was passed on to the re
st of the family. I do not know a lot of people who make this as often as I do...perhaps because making it is quite a tedious process. I always opt to bring this to potluck parties instead of the usual dishes as I am sure no one else would bring the same. Don't be turned off by the is not as hard as it seems and the effort is well worth it, believe me.


Cathedral Windows


Prepare 2-3 jelly moulds. You will need 5 boxes of different flavoured/coloured jelly crystals.

Jelly Cubes -
1. In a medium bowl, mix together contents of one box of flavoured jelly, 1 tablespoon unflavoured gelatine, 1 tablespoon white sugar and 1 cup boiling water. Mix until jelly crystals and sugar are fully dissolved. Then add 1 cup cold water. Combine well. Pour into a pan (about an 8" round pan or any similar sized container would do) and chill inside refrigerator until very firm.
2. Do the same procedure for 4 more boxes of different flavoured jelly.
3. When jelly is firm, cut them up into small cubes and combine in a large bowl. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the binder.

Binder -
1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons unflavoured gelatine in 2 cups hot (but not boiling) apple juice. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan and over low fire, beat 4
egg yolks and cook with 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice until thickened.
3. Pour and mix in the apple juice/jelly mixture. Remove from fire.
4. Fold in 1 cup thickened cream and 1 cup evaporated milk.

Assembly -
Combine cream mixture with the cut-up jelly cubes. Quickly (but carefully) pour into jelly moulds. Set aside in refrigerator until firm.
Invert jelly mould onto a plate. Slice and serve! To enjoy it at its best, consume within a day or two. 

Some additional tips:
1. Use 5 different coloured/flavoured jelly crystals. I usually use the following:
Strawberry - Red
Lemon or Mango - Yellow
Lime or Apple - Green
Orange - Orange
Grape or Blackcurrant - Violet

2. I usually chill the coloured jelly overnight to make sure they are very firm. The following day (the day you are going to serve this), make the binder a few hours before serving.

3. After you have incorporated the binder with the jelly cubes, work quickly to transfer them to your moulds.

4. Leave in refrigerator until it is time to serve. Specially on a warm day, leaving the jelly at room temperature may cause it to soften.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Snapping Out of the Sewing Slump

So......after being in a sewing slump for about three weeks, I finally snapped out of it and completed this new project. The idea of making a messenger bag for myself has long been on my mind. It took a while, though, for me to clearly visualize how I was going to go about sewing it. I believe it was only last week that I had actually put it all together. I wanted one with a zip top closure apart from the flap (for better security), but I had doubts I could pull that off as I had not done anything like it before. And then it came...the epiphany...and appropriately enough, I was at church when I suddenly figured out how I was going to do it!

And so, here it new messenger bag.

The main colour is navy blue (my favourite). The flap, sides and lining material is a lovely corduroy with paisley prints. Both fabrics are remnants from previous projects.

This is the side/back view showing the zippered back pocket.

With the flap open, the top zip panel is revealed, as well as the two front pockets and magnetic snap closure.

I am mighty proud of how I made this top closure. The use of an open-end zipper made the process much less complicated.

This is the inside view showing the slip pocket.

Another view of the inside, this time with some library books just to give you an idea of the bag's size. It is pretty roomy.

And finally, with the strap fully extended, hanging on my bedroom door.

Finished bag size is 10" (H) x 11" (W) x 3" (D). Strap is about 41" long.

Incidentally, my sewing machine started acting crazy just as I was about to finish this. I could not figure out what was wrong with it so in the end, I wasn't able to topstitch the top edge of the bag. No big deal really. But I sure hope my machine gets fixed or I may be on my way to another slump again...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Corned Beef Hash Browns

A few years ago, my sister in-law gave me a recipe book containing more than a hundred easy, everyday meals from the best of Good Housekeeping magazine. One of the very first recipes I tried was that of Corned Beef Hash Browns. This was an instant hit with my kids and has since become one of their favourites. Pictured below is the page from the book featuring the recipe.

As you can see, the patties were served like hamburgers, complete with tomatoes and lettuce in a bun. We have yet to eat it this way as I have always served the corned beef with rice. But it does look yummy, doesn't it? Looks ideal for school lunchboxes, too.

These are the corned beef hash browns I cooked earlier...

And here is the recipe, courtesy of Good Housekeeping...

Corned Beef Hash Browns (serves 4)

I cup cubed potatoes
1 can (210 grams) corned beef
1 egg
1/4 cup cornstarch

In a skillet, brown potatoes, then drain. Transfer to a bowl and mix with corned beef, egg and cornstarch. Blend well. Heat oil in skillet. Form the mixture into patties and fry until done. Serve with rice or bread.

The Art of 'Recycling' Food

I often wonder how my mother managed to feed us, her 9 children, day in and day out, without losing her mind. I distinctly remember her going to her weekly trip to the market and coming home with countless baskets of fresh meat, fish, fruits and veggies. She spent hours in the kitchen sorting out the meat, cleaning the fish, putting them in separate freezer bags and stacking them all in the freezer. And then she still had to cook! I certainly know that it is really a big task coming up with meals that will make everyone satisfied and happy. I have four children of my own...four with different likes and dislikes.

My dad used to be very strict with the food budget. He accounted for every single cent my mum spent in her marketing. This probably drove my mum to become very creative in the kitchen. So as not to waste anything, she learned and perfected the art of recycling food. When I say 'recycling', what I really mean is this. Leftovers are transformed into an entirely different dish. My mum had a way of changing its appearance...maybe through the addition of another type of sauce or perhaps different vegetables. We'd quickly recognize bits of the 'old' food in the new one though.

I must admit I am not as creative but last night, I proudly used some meat leftovers from the other night's dinner to come up with this dish.

Nothing fancy, really. Just some broccoli, sliced mushrooms and the leftover beef. I stirfried these with minced garlic, put in the sauce from the beef leftover and sprinkled some sesame oil. That's it.

We had some fried flounders and steamed rice with it.

And yes, some watermelons to finish off....

Not bad...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Creamy Chicken with Potatoes, Leeks and Mushrooms

I did it again. Just as I thought I had dinner planned out, I suddenly discovered I had failed to buy an important ingredient. That happened to me last week...and then again, last night. So I had to improvise and make use of whatever I had. My kids love white sauce so this is what I came up with quickly. I suppose it was pretty good as there were no leftovers.

Creamy Chicken with Potatoes, Leeks and Mushrooms

500g chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper
1 piece kabana or any sausage you prefer, sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons butter
1 can whole button mushrooms, drained
1 large leek, trimmed and chopped
2 teaspoons chicken powder (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
3 small potatoes, cubed
2 cups fresh milk

Season chicken with salt and pepper (estimate amount but do not put too much). Leave for a few minutes. Melt butter in a large pan. Toss chicken cubes and cook till brown. Add kabana slices and stir-fry for about a minute. Add mushrooms and leeks. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Season with chicken powder. Stir in flour. Add milk and potatoes. Bring
to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or until potato is cooked.

That was easy, wasn't it? Serve with steamed rice.