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Oh Betty! So beautiful, so miserable, so much denial. Is she likable? Not really. Is she a good mother? Hell no. She lacks Joan’s competence and Peggy’s ambition, so why of all the wonderfully crafted and acted women on Mad Men do I adore Betty the most?

I adore Betty because we witness her struggle to find herself. Cold, lost, and tenaciously flawed, much like my own mother, Betty struggles in the dichotomy of what she was told would make her happy (housewife/mother/arm candy) and what might actually give her fulfillment. Tragically, unlike Joan or Peggy, Betty is too far removed from her emotional self to know what she wants.

So where does that leave Betty now? Apparently eating away her misery – losing the beauty she learned to depend on. Oh Betty! What will happen to you? Will you discover what brings you joy? Will you develop compassion for your children? Will your world expand from the frozen, self-absorbed universe you’ve trapped yourself in? Wait, am I still talking about Betty?

Anyway, in honor of my favorite dysfunctional mother on television (Lucille Bluth comes in a close second), I offer Betty’s favorite cocktail (the vodka gimlet) in gelatinous form. Tart, sweet, and fruity, this gelatin was a hit at my Mad Men cocktail gelatin party.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of two limes (approx. 1/2 cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ½ cup vodka

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lime juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in vodka.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the strawberries. Stir in (or place) strawberries into mixture, and the mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

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I had fantastic plans for this year’s Valentine’s Day gelatin mold – it was going to be the gelatinous exemplification of my disillusioned feelings towards this holiday, while paying tribute an amazing band that wrote at least 69 of my favorite love songs. However, since the super boozy gelatin of my imagination requires a great deal of work (including my friend Matt’s assistance in using a kitchen floor vacuum former), it will not be completed in time for V-Day. Therefore, I’m re-posting last year’s popular chocolate and strawberry panna cotta instead.

Here are some fun variations for this recipe:

  • If you are not a fan of intense dark chocolate, reduce the baking cocoa to ¼ cup.
  • Add two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to liven things up. An orange or raspberry liqueur would nicely compliment the chocolate.
  • Replace strawberries with raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Orange or tangerine juice would work as well.
  • Instead of adding a fruit layer, make a blackberry syrup or strawberry coulis.
  • Instead of having two layers, add ¼ of pureed and strained berries to the chocolate panna cotta. Reduce heaving whipping cream to 1 ¾ cups.
  • Add a ½ cup of a flavored simple syrup (see chocolate cardamom panna cotta), reduce milk and cream by ¼ cup each.

Strawberry top layer (Recipe for 1 ¾ cups)

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained (NOTE: it is very important to strain the seeds! Otherwise, they will sink to the bottom of the mold, and show up on the surface. Not pretty!)

Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed strawberries. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

 Chocolate Panna Cotta (Recipe for 2.5 cups)

  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup baking cocoa powder

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ½ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. If clumps of cocoa remain, strain to remove. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of hot water for a few seconds. After removing from hot water, gently shake the mold side to side. Put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process.

A few weeks ago my friend Lynda requested a special recipe for her grandmother’s 100th birthday – a vodka tonic. According to Lynda, her grandmother credits her longevity to the daily consumption of this classic cocktail. How great is that?! I credit my occasional poor decision making and sluggish weekend mornings to cocktail consumption. Lynda made this recipe for her grandmother’s 100th birthday party, and it was a hit. I couldn’t be more honored.

In an attempt to try something new, I added candied limes to Grandma’s Vodka Tonic. This recipe for candied lemons from Real Simple magazine inspired me. Unfortunately the results were mixed: Boiling limes turns them brown (not very pretty), but they tasted sweet and limey! Oh, lemons can easily substitute limes in this recipe.

Recipe for 7 cups

  • 4 packets Knox gelatin
  • ¾ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ½ cup water (for syrup)
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime (approx. 1/4 cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ½ cups tonic water
  • 2 cups vodka
  • Berries of choice, or candied limes

Put ¾ cup of cold water in a large bowl and sprinkle 4 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put remaining water and sugar and in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Cover and let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in lime juice, vodka, and tonic.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the berries. (Length of time varies.) Stir in berries (or whatever you’re using) and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Berries, herbs, and gin – a match made in my own voluptuary heaven. A few weeks ago I tried a berry rosemary gelato featured at my favorite neighborhood bar, Dolce Vita, and it was ridiculously divine. The addition of savory herbs to desserts may seem objectionable, but in proper proportion, a hint of rosemary, basil, thyme, or sage brings an unexpected brightness to boozy gelatin. Per Dolce Vita bartender Sam’s suggestion, I paired my berry rosemary gelatin with gin. Made from juniper berries and other natural botanicals, gin is perfect for pairing with savory herbs. The resulting gelatin mold was lovely (thanks to the combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries), fruity, herby, and overall yummy.

Check out my previous experiments with herbs: Basil Blueberry Lemonade with Vodka, Rosemary Limeade with Blueberries and Gin, Lemonade with Thyme and Vodka.

Recipe for 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ¾ cup water (for syrup)
  • Juice of one small lemon, zest reserved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups berries, pureed and strained (I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
  • 1 cup gin

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 3 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and rosemary. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the syrup, reheat, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed berries (remember to strain!), lemon juice, and gin. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Instead of Valentine’s Day, this year I celebrated Galentine’s with my single girlfriends. We considered it a celebration of the love we have in our lives – the love of our friends. This chocolate and cardamom panna cotta with a strawberry layer on top was the end to a decadent and labor-intensive meal consisting of super fancy cheese and homemade raviolis.

Chocolate and cardamom – where do I begin? As my friend Laura said, “The chocolate and cardamom are having babies in my mouth!” The mellow cardamom complimented the rich chocolate – it made the dark chocolate seem almost darker. But in a good way. The addition of the thin strawberry layer on top brightened the intense dark chocolate creaminess.

Here are a few yummy variations for this recipe:

  • If you are not a fan of intense dark chocolate, reduce the baking cocoa to ¼ cup.
  • Add two tablespoons of your favorite liqueur to liven things up. An orange or raspberry liqueur would compliment the cardamom and chocolate.
  • Replace strawberries with raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Orange or tangerine juice would work as well.
  • Instead of adding a fruit layer, make a raspberry or strawberry coulis.

Recipe for Cardamom Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-Tbsp. whole cardamom pods

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add cardamom pods. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

We added cardamom simple syrup and strawberries to our glasses of Cava – it was fantastic!

Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta with Strawberry layer

Strawberry top layer (Recipe for 1 ¾ cups)
  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¼ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained (NOTE: it is very important to strain the seeds! Otherwise, they will sink to the bottom of the mold, and show up on the surface. Not pretty!)

Put ¼ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 1 packet of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in pureed strawberries. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until almost set. It should stick to your fingers when slightly touched.

Chocolate and Cardamom Panna Cotta (Recipe for 2.5 cups)
  • One packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup whole milk (for blooming gelatin)
  • 1 ¾ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cardamom simple syrup
  • ½ baking cocoa powder

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup cold milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan heat up cream, sugar, cardamom simple syrup. Add cocoa a little bit at a time and stir thoroughly. Once sugar dissolves, pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Refrigerate until not set, but cool. Pour into mold(s) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

This strawberry margarita gelatin mold was inspired by the favorite cocktail of one of my favorite people, Tim Inklebarger. Tim is a fellow Okie and music junkie, former Austinite, brief Alasakan, and now Chicagoan journalist who misses the fantastic Mexican food and margaritas of Texas. Can’t say I blame him…

Now, I realize I say this often, but this gelatin mold may be my new favorite. The fresh pureed strawberries combined with lime juice, tequila, and quality orange liquor created a delightfully sweet and tangy gelatin like none I have experienced before. It tasted like a gelatinous citrus-strawberry aqua fresca, with tequila. The key to a margarita gelatin mold is “Top Shelf” booze. Here I used Hornitos Resposado and Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur. Enjoy and Cheers!

 

 

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ water (for blooming)
  • 1 ¼ cup water (for syrup)
  • ¾ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup lime juice (approx. 1 or 2 limes, depending on size) with zest reserved
  • ½ cup tequila
  • ¼ cup triple sec
  • ¾ cup pureed strawberries, seeds strained

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put water, sugar, and lime juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in tequila, triple sec, and pureed strawberries. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

The margarita – a killer combination of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice – is the best of Texas in a glass. And as a Texan and cocktail enthusiast, I take margaritas very seriously. When making them for parties (or just for myself with homemade tortilla soup), I use fresh limes, the best quality alcohol I can afford, and classic margarita proportions (1.5 oz tequila, 1.0 oz triple sec, 0.5 oz lime juice). For booze, I am presently enjoying Hornitos Resposado – it’s spicy, sweet, and affordable. And instead of cheap triple sec, I prefer Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur. All this creates a lovely sweet and sour combination with no yucky cheap booze or sour mix aftertaste.

I was originally weary of creating a margarita gelatin mold – cocktail-based gelatin molds are a tricky (and expensive) ordeal! I typically experiment with two or three recipes before creating one worth eating. Shockingly, this mold turned out great after just one trial. (I believe the key to cocktail-based gelatin molds is decent quality alcohol – use poor quality booze, and the gelatin mold will taste like a sweet, sticky, cheap boozy mess.) Along with “Top Shelf” booze, the strawberries provided visual interest and sweet fruity tastiness. Honestly, my friends and I were surprised how good this turned out!  Given it’s versatility, I plan on several more margarita-inspired gelatin molds in the future.

Recipe for 3.5 Cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • 2 cups water (for syrup)
  • ¾ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup lime juice (approx. 1 or 2 limes) with zest reserved
  • ½ cup tequila
  • ¼ cup triple sec
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries (or other fruit of your choice – except fresh mangos, see Gelatin Tips and Tricks)

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put rest of water, sugar, and lime juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in tequila and triple sec.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to hold the strawberries. Stir in strawberries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

The mojito is one of my favorite summer drinks. Sweet, sour, minty, and bubbly. Here I suspended strawberries and mint leaves for visual interest, and added blueberries to create a patriotic theme for 4th of July.

Making cocktail-based molds from scratch is a challenge! I finally decided to steep lime zest and mint leaves in a hot lime syrup (water, limes, sugar). The lime/mint combination tasted great, but I was heavy handed on the rum. Even my alcohol loving friends admitted it was strong.  A bit more practice and I’ll hopefully unlock the secret to cocktail-based gelatin molds.

This mold may not be the prettiest I’ve made, but it was definitely the tastiest. Inspired by this mold, my ingredients included 100% pomegranate juice, vodka, sugar, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I worried the combination would demonstrate too tart, but the sugar and berries nicely balanced the pomegranate and vodka.

Recipe for 3.5-cup mold

  • 2 cups 100% pomegranate juice (If using a juice blend or one with added sugar, you may want to reduce sugar in the recipe)
  • 1-cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • ¾ cup cold vodka
  • 1 1/2-cup berries of choice (thoroughly washed and dried)

Put pomegranate juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and add gelatin. Stir until gelatin is fully dissolved (approx. 2 minutes). Transfer liquid to a bowl and stir in the cold water and vodka.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the berries. Stir in berries, and spoon mixture into mold. Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

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