Saturday, December 18, 2010

BELLA'S GUILT

When you have a blog with more than five followers, companies start offering you free shit. I won't name names but most of the time you couldn't pay me to give these "food" products to my kids. On the other hand, my kids would probably give me all their tooth fairy money to get their hands on just one of these toxic items. It only takes one lick of artificial cheese powder to get my kids high.

I finally got a product offer that I felt comfortable accepting. Pom Wonderful asked if I wanted to experiment with pomegranate juice in some of my recipes. We got the juice in the mail and Dash immediately pounded a few bottles.
This stuff is very tasty. And tart. I was worried that Dash would drink them all up so I hid the rest of the bottles in the attic fridge and forgot about them.

Then Bella started to feel really bad.

"They specifically gave us that juice so that we would make something. It's not okay to just forget about it. It's going to go BAD. They might even get mad at you, mama." She's a bit unclear on the concept of bloggers and marketing. I'm in awe of her sense of responsibility. Seems inappropriate for a seven-year old, but I still find it beautiful.

"What about Pomegranate martinis?" I suggested.
Bella rolled her eyes at me.
"Should we reduce it down and make pomegranate syrup?"I asked.
"NO!"
"Should we marinate some lamb in it?"
"No, mama. Let's make pomegranate jello with fresh pomegranate seeds on top."

For years I've associated jello with Bill Cosby, childbirth, and the stomach flu. Sort of a mixed bag of associations. But for Bella, jello was just that exciting neon stuff that her mom refused to buy and that other people had at their houses.

"Bella?"
"What?"
"Pomegranate jello? That's fucking brilliant." Yes. I did say that. To my seven-year old.

She started gathering pomegranates from the fruit bowl.
 
The first thing we needed for jello was gelatin. And I knew making gelatin involved a big old pile of meat parts. I learned this the hard way when I offered my vegetarian friends some of my homemade marshmallows last Christmas. They said they would have to give them away to their carnivorous neighbors.

Dash, Bella, and I headed over to the butcher to find out how to make homemade gelatin. I really want my kids to know where food comes from. And if I had to choose between them eating collagen extracted from meat or FD&C Red #40, I'd pick the meat every time.

"Can you get a hold of a cow's hoof?"asked one of the butchers.
I was confused. I stuttered a bit. "Um. Uh. Maybe I can get one. But can't you? You're the butcher."
"Nope," he said. "No hooves here. Just get yourself one and then grate it down into a fine powder." He smirked a bit so I wasn't sure he was taking me seriously.
"With a microplane grater?" I asked.
"Wow, you really are determined to make your own gelatin."
"I don't mess around."
Dash looked proud. Bella was slowly backing away from her embarrassing mother into the paper towel aisle.

The butcher dudes looked at each other, laughed, and went back to discussing whether or not a pint is a pound the world around. One guy believed it. The other didn't.

Inspired and determined, I was ready to search Berkeley for a cow's hoof. Bella didn't have the patience. She wanted to make jello RIGHT NOW. So we bought packs of gelatin instead. So much for knowing the source of our food. Next time with the cow's hoof.

Back at home, Bella dressed Dash up as a robot and told him to stay the hell out of her kitchen.
We followed the general directions on the back of the gelatin package. Mix gelatin with cold juice. Let sit for a minute.
Combine with hot pomegranate juice and a little sugar. Pour into assorted ramekins or glasses.
Add some pomegranate seeds. Refrigerate. 
The little seeds float up to the top as it sets. And then jello happens. Magic. 

"Bella," I said, "it turns out jello can be beautiful."
Bella had already moved on. "Mama, what a relief that the jello is done. Now we can drink the rest of the juice and not feel guilty."

Soon, I hope, she'll start organizing my papers and paying the bills.

TIP FOR REMOVING POMEGRANATE SEEDS:  Put on an apron. Sometimes I even do this outside. Cut pomegranate in half. Take one pomegranate half with the cut half facing down into a bowl. Whack the outside of the fruit with a heavy wooden spoon. The seeds will fall down into the bowl. Make sure you remove any white pith that has fallen into the bowl. Repeat with the other half.


POMEGRANATE JELLO
printable recipe
make 8-12 servings depending on ramekin size

2 packages gelatin
4.5 cups pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons sugar  (or more to taste)
seeds from 1 pomegranate

Mix gelatin with 1/2 cup cold pomegranate juice. Mix and let stand for a minute. Bring remaining 4 cups of pomegranate juice to a boil. Take off the heat. Add sugar and mix until dissolved. Taste. Add more sugar if it's not sweet enough. Whisk in gelatin mixture. Pour hot liquid into a pitcher. Pour into ramekins of any size, almost to the top of each dish. Sprinkle fresh pomegranate seeds on top. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

24 comments:

  1. wait, really?! why have i been removing them seed-by-seed for years when i can just whack them out in a bowl? kind of pissed i didn't know about this method before...

    PS: fabulous story!

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  2. wow, you are worried about a little jello when you are dropping fbombs and cussing in front of your 7 and 3 year old? hmmm.... pretty sure a 7 year old dropping an fbomb and saying stay the hell out of my kitchen to her 3 year old brother is a much bigger problem you should be worried about....... i really hope, for your daughter's sake, you are joking when you say this.

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  3. AJ: isn't that a great trick for the pomegranate seeds? i was so happy to learn that. i'm glad you liked the story. i've been wanting to tell it for a few weeks now.

    anonymous: i'd rather my daughter cussed up a storm and ate really well than acted puritanical and ate junk food. i guess our priorities are different. but thanks for your parenting feedback.

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  4. little swear words leave my mouth, too! now, as a former english teacher, this is a teachable moment about the power of language! my nine-year-old now wants to see many pg-13 movies, and what's interesting to me is that i could care less about swear words and sex, but all the violence drives me crazy, and, alas, that is usually just in the pg movies! oy sey, i say.

    what i loved most about the entry was how beautifully bella's nails matched the pomegrantes! loves that.

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  5. actually it's not that i "care less"; no, that's not it. i guess it's that i'd much rather have him hear swear words and see naked bodies that experience heads being blown off gratuitously. i say a few swear words and some very healthy food would probably make him healthy and wise about language, yes?

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  6. thank you hanna. thank you susan. swear words and naked bodies are (dare i say) an integral part of a good full life. gratuitous violence and junk food? not what i want for me or my kids. thanks for all your great comments.

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  7. great idea with the pomegranate! Have you ever tried using agar instead of gelatin? It's available in most asian food stores.

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  8. I've started reading comments on blogs and onlines newspapers and magazines (yet another way to spend/waste time) and I am astonished at the cruelty and judgment that people exhibit because . . . you guessed it . . . they're anonymous. If they had to sign their names to things, they wouldn't say half of what they spout. What scares me, however, is that they're all thinking it. The judgment and moralizing, oy vey! Especially about one another's parenting and sex lives and weights and political views . . . the list goes on and on. Glass houses, stones. Sometimes I wish anonymity could be banned - I think we'd see a lot more civility and a lot less judgmental idiocy.

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  9. This sounds great! Also, thanks for the pomegranate tip. I am eager to give it a try! I love how eager you were to make your own gelatin:)

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  10. I have a "take charge" daughter just like Bella. She's a triple Aries and has always been this way. Despite the f words expressed in our home through the years, she, and her brother, turned out to be healthy, balanced, kind, and great cooks. Keep up the great parenting Phyllis.

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  11. Phyllis, this was effin' (yep the F-bomb) hilarious! I loved every word and tell Bella that the pomegranate jello was a brilliant idea!
    You gotta get yourselves a cow's hoof;)
    xxxxxxxooo
    Missing you tons,
    E

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  12. Amy Cook (isn't she fabulous!) steered me here and I loved the Pom jello entry.

    So, you said fuck in front of your kid. It's a word. Funny how there are so many people named Anonymous out there who have such similar bad manners. It is remarkable.

    Gelatin - I've never attempted or thought to attempt home manufacture for the purpose of making a base for a gelled dessert, but my guess would be that it would be difficult to yield something that would gel properly and lack an odor that would detract from just about any kind of fruit.

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  13. Pomegranite jello is ***** brilliant. Kudos to Bella.
    My kids yell at me when I forget and swear in front to them. It's like living with a grandma. Trust me, it doesn't hurt them. My daughter is 26 now and an executive at a Fortune 500 company and she says she's heard worse at work. She gives those men the stinkeye and they apologize. My son is in college and doing just fine. Home cooking and a happy mom equals happy kids.

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  14. Sounds amazing! Love the color to, good gob bella!

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  15. I'm so glad DailyCandy featured your slow-cooked roast recipe today so I could find out about your blog. I'll be back over the holiday weekend to go back through your past posts.

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  16. your blog is brilliant. totally inspiring me to cook with my kids more. the way you write/tell each story is so real. look forward to looking back into more recipes...

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  17. I love your blog. By the way - we get our pomegranate seeds out by cutting the pomegranate in half and breaking them a part in a bowl of cold water. keeps the juices from spraying on us, and the white part between the seeds floats to the top while the seeds sink so they are super easy to separate. I'm not sure where I learned this trick, I certainly didn't come up with it on my own. :)

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  18. I'm just catching up on your old posts. Loved this one! Here's another tip for seeding pomegranates: fill your bowl with water. The seeds will sink and the white stuff floats. A great lesson in physics for the kids.

    Looking forward to our next date.

    Love to you, m, b, and d.

    Xo, y

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  19. So, I have written in many times telling you how much I enjoy your blog, but I @##&&&& LOVED this one. Your candor, and your sense of humour actually had me laughing OUT LOUD.
    Thanks so much for sharing. And I wished you lived in Kelowna,because I would want to be your friend and neighbour.

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  20. I just found your blog courtesy of a comment in an NPR article. Anyway, its such a great concept ... I love having my kids in the kitchen and they love cooking. My 5 year old is a master carrot/potato peeler and my 3 year old cuts olives like no one's business. Well, I'm following you on facebook now and can't wait to read through your blog.
    My kids love pomegranates too. Here's a photo I took of one the last time we had one around.
    http://linzfrentrop.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/255-of-365/
    I look forward to showing them we could make jello with it, they don't get jello very often either, but that was a fucking brilliant idea! :o)

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  21. Yep. Love this. Love your blog. Love that you love cooking with your kids. May I learn much from you.

    (and don't you LOVE anonymous comments?)

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  22. Hi Phyllis, Your blog makes me laugh. That Bella is wise beyond her years. Great post.

    PS I nominated you for "The Stylish Blogger Award.". Check out my page to see it.

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