Strawberry Jell-O Cake

The passion of the Italian or the Italian-American population is endless for food and love and everything about it. – Mario Batali

My last post was a little more personal and emotional than I like to be, but I thought my absence over the past year deserved a proper, and honest explanation. Luckily, it’s not my style to get all sappy and emotional on a normal basis; only when necessary. I prefer my sarcastic and witty self the majority of the time and hopefully anyone reading this does too. I chose the above quote this week because I wanted the focus here to return back to passion and food!

So last weekend as I sat at Uncle Handsome’s babysitting, I was thinking about what I wanted to make next. I decided I would bake a cake for my Grandpa’s birthday dinner that Sunday.

One of my favorite cakes growing up was my Grandma’s Jell-O cake. I had no idea it was a classic American recipe. I always thought it was this secret cake she knew how to make, kind of like magic.

I like Jell-O. I really like cake. I love Jell-O cake. Perfect addition to my recipe collection.

I went to the store and had the intention of being creative with my Jell-O flavors, and maybe mixing things up, but in the end I just wanted the classic Strawberry Jell-O cake.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

1 box of Strawberry Jell-O

1 box of Betty Crocker white cake

1 container of Cool-Whip

Fresh Strawberries

4 Round Cake Pans

Jell-O Cake Ingredients

Bake cake according to the directions on the box.

(You could always make your own white cake, but I had to pick up miss Concetta who was stranded after a fun night out, so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked).

Betty Crocker White Cake

While the cake is baking, make the Jell-O according to the directions on the package.

Strawberry Jell-O

Strawberry Jell-O

When the cakes are finished let them cool and then switch each cake to a clean plan. This is an important step – so don’t forget! If you don’t do this, you will have a really hard time getting the cake out of the pan and it will more than likely fall apart. Mine did.

(I was not aware of this step, so when I brought my Jell-O soaked cakes to my Grandma’s to ice with Cool-Whip, my Aunt Anette and Grandma had to help me salvage my cakes.)

Betty Crocker White Cake

Stab each cake all-over with a fork (I attempted to do slits to control the color and this worked fine) and then pour the Jell-O equally all over each cake.

Put in the refrigerator for at least three hours to let the Jell-O set.

(This is also an important step. I am the most impatient person, so I took them out way too early. Again, I was lucky my Aunt Annette is a genius and helped me salvage my cake!)

Once the cakes have been in the refrigerator for at least three hours, remove the first cake and place it upside down on a cake tray (rounded part on the bottom).

Ice the top with room-temperature Cool-Whip and then place the second cake, with the round part facing up, on top of the first cake.

(If you buy Cool-Whip and it’s still frozen, don’t put it in the microwave. I attempted this and was looked at as if I was a crazy person by my Grandma. Who knew you couldn’t microwave Cool-Whip?)

Ice the remainder of the cake and add sliced strawberries on the top.

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

Strawberry Jell-O Cake

My cake had a few issues, as I noted above, but it really ended up turning out pretty good. Most of it was in part to my Aunt who literally helped me piece my cake back together after it fell apart.

It turned out moist and had a lot of flavor. My cousin Antonia even took the leftover cake home because she thought it was so good. Turned out to be a nice little Sunday surprise!

As I told my Aunt and my Grandma while we were holding my cake together, hoping the Cool-Whip would help to bind it, “that’s why I call this blog ‘Kitchen Adventures’ – if you don’t try, you’ll never know!” Learning is always an adventure, good or bad.

Luckily this adventure turned out to be a good one!

So Happy Birthday to my wonderful and loving Grandpa! He is one of the reasons I love to cook and experiment with recipes.  I am so thankful for his influence in the kitchen and in my life.

Some of my earliest memories of being in the kitchen are with him, standing over a bowl of pancake mix and laughing while he threw random ingredients into the batter. One of my all time favorites was when he added Orange Juice.

Grandpa Page

Grandpa Page

It wouldn’t be Sunday dinner without some sort of entertainment. The only person missing in the above picture is Nick, who is typically right next to Michael standing behind Grandpa doing some sort of torment.

Until next time…

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Page Family Meat Pie Cook-Off

“Your life is a result of the choices you make. If you don’t like your life, it is time to start making better choices.”

2012 was a tough year. Not just for me, but for a lot of my loved ones. Change, death, loss, fear, confusion. You name it – we had it.

It was almost a year ago that I made a decision that would change my life as I knew it. Not just my life, but what I had envisioned for my life. It was a hard decision, but it was one that would lead to a happier and more content version of myself. A version of myself that I recognized again and actually liked.

I had come across the above quote, and it made me think about how unhappy I was, and why. Once I started making decisions that were better for me, and not anyone else, I started to love my life for the first time in a really long time.

I also stopped cooking, which led to the lack of posts over the past year.

It’s hard to do things with passion when you don’t know yourself anymore, so I took some time to figure out “me.” One thing is for sure, I still love being in the kitchen. It is still a place where I am comfortable, creative and anxiety free.

I decided that 2013 was going to be a positive, happy and exciting year. I needed it after the past year and so did the closest people to me in my life. We rang in the new year together on the beach and cheered to “new beginnings” and “happier times.”

My brother-in-law lost his mother almost a year ago. She loved “My Big Fat Italian Life” and saved all of my recipes. While I may have stopped blogging last year, I didn’t stop cooking. I was cooking for her when she couldn’t, and I just didn’t feel right blogging about it.

So, for Dianne, I am going to start sharing recipes again. I am going to dedicate the year of “new beginnings” and “happier times” to her. Cheers, Dianne!

Turn the Page

Every so often my family has a little friendly cooking competition. Everyone grew up in the kitchen and in the food industry, so it’s only natural that everyone thinks they are the “best” in the trade. While I was in Chicago I missed a few of the cook-offs, so when they decided to have a Super Bowl cook-off, I jumped at the chance!

I had made the Page Family Meat Pie before, but this time I knew I had to up the ante. These pies weren’t going to be just traditional meat pies, and I didn’t want to come in last! I decided to put a spin on the original recipe and it turned out pretty good!

I did forget to drain the meat all of the way, so I ended up with a runny consistency, but the flavor was great.

My Uncle Paul (aka Uncle Handsome) ended up winning, but I came in second (first for flavor).

Page Family Meat Pie

Ingredients

5 Yukon gold potatoes

1 large onion, finely chopped

7 pieces bacon

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 yellow pepper, finely chopped

2 lbs ground beef

David Page’s Special Seasoning

Salt & Pepper

Garlic Powder

Sage

1 egg

2 tbsp olive oil

½ cup milk

½ stick of butter

Philadelphia Cooking Cream, Savory Garlic

Salt & Pepper, to taste

2 pie shells

Box of Puff Pastry

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Peel the potatoes and add to the boiling water. Once the potatoes are fully cooked, remove from the heat and set aside in a mixing bowl.

Yukon Gold Potatos

Yukon Gold Potatos

Finely chop the onion and set aside.

In a large skillet cook the bacon in an ungreased skillet on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes.

Chop the yellow and red pepper and set aside (do not get rid of the grease).

Red & Yellow Peppers

Add the onion and the beef to the skillet with the bacon grease. Season with David Page’s special seasoning, sage, salt and pepper to taste and garlic powder. Add the chopped peppers.

Meat Pie Filling

Take the bacon and chop into tiny pieces. Add to the meat.

Chopped Bacon

Add milk and butter to the potatoes and mash with a mixer. Add salt and pepper to taste and the cream cheese. Make sure to leave some lumps in the potatoes.

Add the pie shell to the pie pan.

Drain the beef. Once the meat is drained, mix with the potatoes and add to the pie shell.

Meat Pie

Beat 3 eggs in a bowl and brush on the edges of the pie crust and the top of the pie.

Meat Pie

Preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (if the edges start to brown faster than the pie, add foil to the edges).

Lucia's Meat Pie

If you have left over filling, you can make mini meat pies, as well!

Roll out the puff pastry dough on a well-floured surface and cut dough into 3-inch squares.

Add filling to the center of each square, but be careful not to add too much filling or the pastry won’t close.

Brush beaten egg on the edges with a pastry brush.

Fold the square into a triangle and push the edges together (you can even use a fork to make a pattern).

Add more egg to the edges.

Place triangles on a baking sheet

Preheat the over to 375° and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Mini Meat Pies

The meat pie contest was a lot of fun, but I am pretty sure no one in my family wants to see another meat pie for a long, long time! It was a bit excessive…

Meat Pie Cook-Off

And to start 2013 off with a bang, we welcomed the newest member of the Page family at the end of 2012. Introducing baby Augustus or “Gus.” He is as cute as a button!

Baby Gus

I have a very, very long list of things to make and I’m excited to share them with you throughout the year! More updates to come…I promise!