Holiday season is bearing down on us and the creative cook is making plans to showcase her most sensational offerings. As the extended family gathers for a traditional but festive holiday meals, this is the perfect opportunity to really make a splash.
Somewhere, I read about Jello Lights. I can't find the source anymore, but the main idea was that you would make colored Jello in a mold, unmold it onto a clear glass plate and set it over a light. The rays would shine up thru the gelatin as if it were stained glass.
Now this is something I could really get into. The only thing that has kept me from it so far is that I couldn't figure out how I would later hide the hole that would have to be sawn into Grandma's walnut buffet to accomodate the light. But an email conversation with an alert reader has provided the way. Sherri of For Myself and Stangers has come up with the perfect method:
Dear Soup Lady,
Put away the power saw. You may have to look around at a local dollar store, Wal-Mart, or Wal-Greens -- or whatever store in your area tends to carry trendy, hip, appealing-to-teens items (Spencers?) but you can get very small, very bright, LED lights that run off tiny batteries and flash in COLORS. They run quite cheaply -- certainly less expensive than a dining room table. Here's a link to one of the many varieties: (search on Belly Button Light)
Oh, Sherri - belly button lights!?! The Soup Lady bows in admiration and respect. What exquisite genius.
- Use a light colored geltain like yellow or orange, unless you are going for something atmospheric and gothic. In that case, go for the black cherry or grape. Or both mixed together.
- Do not add fruits, vegetables or anything else to the Jello. Well, maybe one tasteful walnut or an single orange segment positoned off-center and floating in mid-Jello for an accent.
- The Soup Lady is a big believer in decorating food with non-edible items. Imagine one of those 3" tall Barbie toys from a McDonald's Happy Meal encased in a Jello mold, looking back - expressionless and mute - at those who are moving along the buffet line. Maybe that one where she's dressed as a McDonald's counter girl? A subtle protest against the way society expects women to be ideal beauties and to feed everybody at the same time. Perhaps that is the wrong imagery for a family gathering? And maybe an imprisoned Barbie is not so subtle after all. In any case, for a project like this, it is best to avoid non-edibles because the little ones will be drawn to the Jello and may try to take a nibble of whatever is in there. On the other hand, they would be talking about their good Old Aunt Sue for many years to come, recalling fondly the Year of Barbie in Jello. But don't do it, for safety's sake.
- Unmold onto a plain clear plate. Plastic, now that I think about it, might be even better than glass since it may not transmit the heat from the lights as fast as glass.
- To elevate the clear plate, use a wire cooling rack or a metal trivet.
- Place a small string of white mini-lights - still in the plastic holder they came in - under the rack. These are fairly cool in terms of heat thrown off - we do not want our Jello to ungel before it's time. Or use some of those belly-button lights, perhaps scotch-taped to the bottom of a clear pedestal cake server. The crowd will be amazed. The mini-lights wrapped around the pedestal would work, too.
- For presentation to a crowd that is adult and/or has enough sense to avoid eating flashing lights, you can sink a few activated belly-button lights directy into the jello near the edges of the mold. Make a small incision with a sharp knife into the set Jello and insert the flashing light. Greater interest could be generated if the lights were inserted into the top, pointing downwards and disguised with a dollop of whipped cream so that the light source is not visible. This of course, increases the likelyhood that a light will be eaten, which the Soup Lady does not recommend.
***Once again, do not do this near children, drunks or funny guys who are likely to act up and put a belly buton light into their mouths.*** To err on the safe side, I would have to recommend placing the lights outside of the food to be consumed.
The Soup Lady is thinking that putting these little lights under or in back of a glass punch bowl would be festive as well, but be careful that the punch is non-alcoholic to reduce the chance that drunks will swallow your performance art.