Marian’s Cranberry Jell-O

My friend Marian used to make this for Thanksgiving. I still make it and think of her every time.

I love Jell-O (technically it needs the hyphen) because my mom never made it, so it’s a treat for me. This one is not hard to make, and the bitterness of the cranberries adds a whole new dimension to the Jell-O.

  • 1 6 oz package of dark red Jell-O (cherry, black cherry, whatever)
  • 1 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
  • About 1/2 cup walnut halves or pieces
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange

This takes a bit of prep. Dump the cranberries in a colander and rinse them. PIck out the bad ones and get rid of them. Put half of them in a 2 qt or larger saucepan. Cut the rest of the cranberries in half and add them to the saucepan too. Add the amount of water that the Jell-O package says to boil- usually 2 cups- and turn the burner on.

(The package also says to add cold water- put that water in the refrigerator while you cook the cranberries. )

Keep an eye on the cranberries, stirring once in a while. Let them boil til they start seriously popping. Take the pan off the stove and stir the Jell-O mix in per instructions, for THE FULL TWO MINUTES. Then add the cold water and stir.

Put it in a pretty serving bowl at this point, but make sure to leave a couple of inches of room.

Chill for an hour to an hour and a half. Just before then, core and chop the apple into 1/2 inch pieces, and peel, seed and chop the orange into 1/2 inch pieces.

Take out the Jell-O, mix in the fruit and walnuts, put back in the fridge for several hours til it gels hard.

Remember, Jell-O is NOT vegetarian. You can make this with the vegetarian carrageenan version, but it doesn’t gel hard, it stays kind of soft. Still tasty, just not the same.

 

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Jenny’s Salad

This is so easy, and so delicious!

  • Greens (romaine, spring mix, spinach, whatever) about 3 cups, more if you like
  • 1/2 c pine nuts (more if you like)
  • 1 14 oz can mandarin orange slices, drained
  • 1/4 cup very thin sliced red onions (optional)
  • Dressing- balsamic, oil and vinegar, vinaigrette, whatever you like. I don’t use dressing on this, but some folks like it.

Mix it all in a big bowl and serve. Sweet, juicy, crunchy deliciousness.

 

Lasagna

This one takes a long time, but it’s worth it. The basic recipe makes a deep 9 x 12 pan full, modify it to make more. I like to make several smaller pans full and freeze most of them, since this is so much work. I also usually buy aluminum pans from the grocery store, because they’re deeper and then I don’t have to scrape baked-on cheese off my glass pans.

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 chopped onion
  • either 2 cloves chopped garlic, or a heaping teaspoon of jar garlic
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 5 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves, broken in half
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley leaves
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds (about 10)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp black pepper, depending on taste
  • Salt to taste
  • A bag of sliced mushrooms, if you like them
  • 1 box wide lasagna noodles
  • 1 12oz bag fresh baby spinach
  • 32 oz small curd cottage cheese (lowfat is okay, don’t use nonfat)
  • 16 oz ball of mozzarella cheese (lowfat is okay, don’t use nonfat) in 1/8 inch slices
  • Grated parmesan cheese

So here’s how it goes, and you have to have all the separate pieces done before you put it together:

Make the sauce. Cook the onion, garlic and hamburger in a bit of olive oil, maybe 2 tsp. Add all three kinds of tomatoes, stir. Add the spices (and those are approximations, be creative with the spices!). Cook for an hour over low heat; it should simmer but not boil. Add the mushrooms, cook another hour to two hours.

Meanwhile, boil a big pot of water with a little olive oil in it. When it’s seriously boiling, add the whole box of lasagna noodles and stir til it comes back to a boil. Stir every minute or two so they don’t stick. Stop cooking them a bit on the hard side, just before ‘al dente’, because they’re going to get cooked more in the lasagna.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it in a bowl; if it’s going ot be a while, put a cover over them to keep them moist.

When you’re ready to put the whole thing together (usually when the sauce is done, 2-3 hours along), set up a workspace. You need easy access to the sauce, the pasta, a bowl of spinach, the sliced mozzarella, the tub of cottage cheese, and the parmesan.

Just before you start putting it together, put the whole bag of spinach in a microwavable bowl and nuke it for two minutes on high.

Now you’re ready to put it all together! In your deep casserole dish(es), here’s the order:

  1. A small spoonful of sauce spread all over the bottom so the first layer of pasta doesn’t stick
  2. A layer of lasagna noodles; overlapping the edges a bit is okay, but it should just be one layer thick.
  3. A couple of spoonfuls of sauce, spread to cover the noodles
  4. Slices of mozzarella, maybe 3 slices torn in pieces scattered over a 9 x 13 inch pan; don’t worry about leaving space between, they’ll melt and there’ll be plenty of cheese.
  5. A couple of large spoonfuls of cottage cheese, spread around
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan. Maybe 1/8 cup?
  7. Another layer of noodles
  8. About half the spinach
  9. More mozzarella
  10. Repeat from step 2 until you run out of stuff. You have to kind of judge how much you have of each thing, how deep your pans are and how many pans you have. If possible, end up with the meat/3 cheeses step, so that the cheeses are on top to melt and bubble and brown.

This is the point where you can cover and freeze the lasagna, if you want. Or put it in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 for about an hour, til the edges are bubbling and the top is browned. If the top browns first, cover with aluminum foil. If the edges bubble, you can brown it with the broiler. Serve and enjoy.

Frozen lasagna- put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours to thaw, then cook as above. Cold lasagna might take an hour and a half to cook, depends on how thick it is and your oven.

You can make it vegetarian by taking out the meat, or adding tofu. You can add a layer of zucchini, slightly broiled on a cookie sheet after being brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper; don’t cook them too much or they’ll mush. Ditto slices of eggplant. You can pretty much do what you want with this- add stuff, subtract it, change up the spices, use ricotta instead of cottage cheese (I think it’s too sweet, but you might like it.) Have fun!

Red and Black Soup

  • 3/4 lb sweet italian sausage, crumbled
  • one chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped OR two heaping teaspoons of jar garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup orzo, cooked al dente

Cook onion and garlic, add sausage, cook til done.

Add the rest except the orzo (which you can cook concurrently) and simmer half an hour or so.

Drain the orzo (if you just made it) and add, cook five more minutes.

Pumpkin Pie Cake

I have no idea where I got this, somewhere on the interwebs, but oh my GOD it’s delicious. The whole weekend after Thanksgiving we’ll leave this out in the kitchen with a spoon beside it and take a bite every time we walk past…!

  • BOTTOM LAYER:
  • 29 oz can pumpkin
  • 13 oz can evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed, I made this mistake once!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • TOP LAYER
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • Pecan halves (optional)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter

Mix all ingredients for the bottom layer; you can even do this several hours ahead, and keep it in the fridge in a bowl, covered with saran wrap.

When you’re ready to cook it, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking oil, and put in the bottom layer. Then sprinkle the whole yellow cake mix on top. Slice the sticks of butter thin and dot them all over the top. Put pecan halves on top of that (if you like them)

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, and I think it’s much better if you let it cool for fifteen minutes or so before serving. Just use a big spoon, it doesn’t cut like a cake. You can put whipped cream on it if wanted. And it gets even better as leftovers…

 

Jo Nell’s Crock Pot Pork

I was horrified at the thought of PACKAGED SPICE PACKETS, I don’t know why, but this is amazingly good.

  • A hunk of pork, roast or thick chops or cutlets.
  • I package McCormick’s slow cooker Fiesta Chicken mix
  • About 2 tbsps of Lawry’s Taco Seasoning (or it’s too bland)
  • 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can of black beans

Pour it all (except the beans) into the crock pot and cook for 4-5 hours. Add the beans and cook for another hour to an hour and a half. You can put in a little tomato paste at the end to thicken it up.

Clafoutis

I got this from a children’s cookbook, and it’s both easy and delicious.

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Fruit

In a large bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, butter and vanilla until well mixed.

Slowly add the flour and whisk until mixed.

Put fruit in a pie dish or baking dish, pour batter over it, and bake at 325 for 35-45 minutes til it’s puffed up and golden. Serve IMMEDIATELY.

You can literally use any kind of fruit you want- strawberries, raspberries, peaches, apples. You can use canned fruit. You can probably use frozen fruit that’s been thawed, although I’ve never tried that. This is easy and delicious, a very impressive dessert with not much fuss to it.