Friday, April 18, 2014

Layered Jello Eggs

I made a big Easter dinner for my family and Jared's dad tonight for Good Friday.  I cooked a ham for the very first time, and I loved every minute of planning and preparing the meal.  Jared and the kids are all crazy about Jello, so I knew I needed to make Jello eggs.

I have made several different versions of Jello eggs over the years, so this year I searched the internet to find something a little different.  I've done the rainbow stripes like this :

Rainbow Ribbon Mold from Kraft

I've also made solid-colored Jello jigglers in my egg molds, cut the Jello eggs in half, and piped whipped cream where the yolk would be if they were deviled eggs.  It was sort of a fun play on dessert deviled eggs.

I was intrigued by this method that uses sweetened condensed milk:

Spring Jello Jigglers from Kraft

I ultimately decided to use this method:

Rainbow Jigglers from Kraft

This method is really similar to how you make the opaque layers in a rainbow layered mold, but it had different ratios of water and yogurt than I've done in the past.  The recipe above outlines a method for setting layers in a loaf pan, then slicing into striped layers, and using cookie cutters to cut out shapes.  I ignored all that since I was using my egg molds.

Speaking of those molds, someone gave me these awesome Jello egg molds several years ago:

I have four of them altogether.  Each mold has a bottom (the pointy end of the egg) and a top (the fatter, more rounded end of the egg) with holes in the top for filling.  Basically, the eggs are upside-down in the molds.  My little plastic "hinges" have broken because these molds are a bit vintage, but the bottoms and tops still snap together tightly.

The insides of the molds have subtle designs:

Here are the supplies I started with:

The boxes of Jello are the smaller (3 oz.) size.

I ended up using an additional box of Island Pineapple Jello as well as a box of Grape Jello.  I'll explain as we go.

The Kraft recipe called for one 6-oz. container of lowfat vanilla yogurt per box of Jello.  I just bought a big tub of yogurt and measured 6 oz. (which is 3/4 cup) for each box of Jello.

I started by spraying non-stick spray in the bottoms of my Jello molds (if yours are still connected, spray both tops and bottoms and then snap them securely together).

I mixed 1/4 boiling water (I just microwaved it) with one box of Jello:

Then I whisked in 6 oz. (3/4) yogurt.  And I forgot to take a picture because I had yogurt on my hands.

The recipe says to then microwave this mixture for 2 minutes, stirring after each minute.  I followed those directions for the first layer, but then I only microwaved the mixture for 1 minute on the next layer, and I skipped this step altogether by the last layer.  I was on a time crunch!  You can choose what you want to do.

I poured the blue Jello/yogurt mixture into the egg molds.  I wasn't sure how many eggs it would fill.  I tried to fill 1/3 of the way up the side of each egg.  The problem this caused later is that the bottom of each mold holds a smaller volume of Jello since it's the pointy end of the egg.  So I really should have divided the liquid by volume rather than by eye-balling 1/3 of the height of the egg.

I put the molds in the fridge to set.  This layer only needed about 15 minutes to set.  Each layer needs to be firm enough to support the next layer, but if you wait too long and let it set completely, the layers will separate when you unmold your eggs.

I mixed the next box of Jello with 1/4 cup boiling water.

Then I mixed in 6 oz. of yogurt.  And forgot to take a picture.  Again.

At this point, I sprayed non-stick spray inside the tops of the egg molds and snapped the mold tops onto the mold bottoms.  Be sure that the molds are firmly closed together.

I poured the Jello mixture carefully through the little holes in the molds.  I just used my glass measuring cup to heat the water, mix in the Jello, mix in the yogurt, and pour the mixture into the molds.

I tried to fill up the middle  third of each egg.  Since the middle section of the egg is wider than the first layer I had filled, this is where I ran into trouble.  I had to make a second batch of Island Pineapple Jello (so glad I had another box on hand!) in order to fill all the eggs. 

The molds are solid plastic, but I can see through them just enough to see how high up the Jello comes on each layer.  I couldn't quite capture the yellow layer in this picture, but you can see what I mean:

This middle layer had to sit in the fridge for about 45 minutes to start setting.  When I thought this layer was getting close to setting, I went ahead and made the next batch of Jello so it could cool a little before pouring it into the molds.

I mixed 1/4 cup boiling water with a box of Cherry Jello.

Then I mixed in the 3/4 cup yogurt.  And I remembered to take a picture!

Somehow I thought that the white yogurt would make the red Jello turn pink.  I was wrong.  I should have known better because the picture on the Kraft website recipe actually has a red stripe.  So, word to the wise:  the yogurt only makes the Jello opaque, rather than making it lighter.  I think Watermelon Jello is the lightest of all the red Jello flavors, so that one might be the closest to pink.

So while I was having a mental tantrum over the fact that red is not an Easter color and now my Easter Jello eggs had red in them, Nora came in to see if there was anything she could clean (i.e., lick) for me.

Of course, I had already filled the egg molds with the red layer of Jello before I let her stick her face in the measuring cup.

The red Jello wasn't enough to fill all of my egg molds, so I checked my pantry and found a box of Grape Jello.  I had just enough yogurt left to pull off one more layer.

So, with five boxes of Jello and 32 oz. of yogurt, I made 21.5 Jello eggs.

These were the rejects and misfits:

Don't feel bad for them; Jared and Nolan gobbled them up.

In fact, the four-color eggs ended up being the most coveted.

I grabbed a glass platter and started arranging the blue/yellow/red eggs:

Then I added the blue/yellow/purple eggs:

Finally, I topped off the platter with a four-layer egg:

Jared said these layered Jello eggs were his favorite version so far!  They had a nice creamy texture and great flavor.

So, to summarize (in case you wanna make these):
  1. Spray the insides of your molds with non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk together 1/4 cup boiling water and 1 box (3 oz.) of Jello.
  3. Whisk in 3/4 lowfat vanilla yogurt.
  4. Pour mixture into egg molds.
  5. Let molds set in refrigerator for 15-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of each layer.  Jello in the molds is ready for the next layer as soon as it no longer shifts when you tip the mold.
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 for each flavor of Jello until your egg molds are full.  Let filled egg molds chill for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).
  7. To unmold, simply open up your egg molds by pulling the top and bottom apart.  Thanks to the non-stick spray, the eggs come out fairly easily with just a little coaxing.
Happy Easter!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Homemade Playdough, 3 Ways

While the kids were on Spring Break and Jared was gone on a business trip, we needed to have some serious creative time.

I hit up my Pinterest boards for ideas and decided we would make three different types of homemade play dough in one evening.  The kids really enjoyed this activity.  Nolan said everyone should vote on their favorite, and I'll tell you the results of that vote at the end.

I checked all tutorials, and we headed to Deals for cheap supplies.  I only needed to buy shaving cream and a bag of flour because I had everything else on hand (I didn't want to use up my baking supply of flour!).

*Photo disclaimer:  We did this activity at night, so we had no natural light for pictures.  In addition to having horrible lighting, I also didn't clean any of my house before the activity/pictures.  Please keep in mind that I was acting as a single mom for days and entertaining my kids who were home from school.  Also, there is no explanation for Nora's hair.  It had been in a ponytail, but it was done obeying brushes, ponytail holders, and gravity at this point in the night.

The first homemade dough was Foam Dough from Mom Trusted.

It's basically equal parts corn starch and shaving cream.  Food coloring is optional, and we skipped it for this dough.

 I absolutely love having this big counter with stools where the kids can do projects!

I dumped some corn starch on the counter and sprayed shaving cream over it.  The kids tried to mix and knead it, but it just seemed to be making a mess.

So they continued mixing...

We reached a point where they all just wanted to wash their hands.

"No, we're gonna make this and have fun with it!" :)

So we kept adding corn starch and/or shaving cream.  And they kept mixing.

Then it finally started coming together.

They could finally form it into shapes, like a snake:

This dough eventually got to be fun.  We probably won't do it again, but it was worth a try.

Also, here's my little tip.  I figured the kids wouldn't appreciate the strong scent of men's shaving cream, so I found some women's shaving cream that was raspberry scented.  They liked it!

The second dough was Cloud Dough from TinkerLab.

Ingredients for this dough are just flour and oil.  We measured 8 cups of flour into our biggest bowl, and then we poured 1 cup of vegetable oil into the middle of the flour.

Doesn't that picture look kinda like a sunny-side-up egg? :)

I started mixing the flour and oil together with a big spoon.  Then I let the kids get in there with their hands.

The fun of this dough is the way it feels in your hands.  The kids spent a long time just running their fingers through it, squeezing it together, and breaking it back into little bits.

The Cloud Dough is made of little tiny pieces that you can play with almost like sand.

Then when you press it or squeeze it, it holds its shape.

Eventually Nora wanted her own pile of Cloud Dough to play with while the boys worked together in the big bowl.

I was disturbed to see Griffin up on top of his stool like this:

The boys were working on making the Cloud Dough into a volcano.

This would probably be a good time to confess that I found myself playing with this dough.  We left the big bowl out for a couple days after this night.  I would run my fingers through it whenever I was on the phone or talking to one of the kids in the kitchen.  A bowl of this on your desk might make a nice stress reliever.

The third dough we made was The Best Playdough Recipe from Tinkerlab.

This was a recipe that had to be cooked, so I started it while the kids were playing with Cloud Dough.

Nolan came over to help me stir.  This was the first time I've ever let him help with something on the stove.  {I know, I'm a mean overprotective Mom.  It's ok.}

This recipe calls for water, a lot of salt, cream of tartar, vegetable oil, flour, and food coloring.  I made one big batch of dough, divided it into thirds, and let each kid color his/her dough.

I put a piece of wax paper under each child's dough to prevent food coloring from getting on the countertop.  I actually think we would have been just fine without the wax paper.  Also, I used my gel food coloring for their dough.

Griffin's turned out to be a beautiful bright blue.  He was pleased with his color and got right to playing.

Nolan wanted orange.  We started with orange food coloring and ended up adding a bit of red to get a nice, vibrant orange.

Poor Nora.  She chose pink food coloring, which didn't add much color to her dough no matter how much we used.  Then she wanted to add some purple.  It ended up a dull color.  We just went with it.

The kids played happily with this dough for quite some time.  They were playing so well that I decided to let them skip their showers and keep playing until bedtime.  Then Jared called, and I chose to talk to him and let the kids keep playing past their bedtime.  It was Spring Break, afterall.  

I'm pretty sure this is exactly what I look like when I'm focused on making something.

Nolan made a big orange castle:

Griffin made a person:

Nora made a sheep, but it fell over and she got mad and wouldn't let me take a picture of it.

This third dough was the closest in texture to store-bought Play-Doh.  It was soft and squishy and moldable.  

The Vote:
Nolan and Nora both voted for "Cloud Dough" as their favorite.  Griffin voted for "The Best Playdough Recipe" as his favorite.

Overall, we had tons of fun experimenting with different types of homemade play dough.  The kids learned during the process, they got to experience different textures, and we had a night filled with hands-on imagination and creativity.  

That's a success in my book!