August 5, 2011

A Jiffy Dinner

Generally, I shy away from box mixes. Their convenience almost never makes up for their lack of flavor and over-reliance on oil. Of course, there are exceptions (for instance, Annie's Macaroni and Cheese, without which I might have starved in college). When my sister and I left our cousins' house in Grass Lake, Michigan, and drove past the Jiffy Factory in Chelsea, Michigan, we were so taken in by the nostalgic signage, bythe existence of a functioning factory in a town center, and by the possibility that there might be a gift shop, that we had to pull over. Our timing was perfect; we stumbled right into the start of a tour. Here is what I learned about Jiffy, the brand name of the Chelsea Milling Company. A four-generation family owned business, the company has always been located in Chelsea, which is just outside Ann Arbor and about an hour west of Detroit. For its first forty years or so, the company milled flour, but, in 1930, Mabel Howdy, wife of the company's second president, Howard Holmes, invented the first ever box mix! Incidentally, she also briefly ran the company after her husband was killed in some kind of factory accident.

The interior of the factory is quite incredible (no photography allowed, unfortunately), but if you've seen the opening sequence of Laverne and Shirley you can get the idea. Lots of conveyor belts. During the baking season (I had no idea there was a baking season,

but it is October to January, which, I suppose, makes a lot of sense), the factory produces 1.5 million boxes of mix per day, enough to build a two lane road from Chelsea to Chicago (which is about two hundred miles). Those grain silos store over 1.25 million bushels of wheat, which are milled on site.

At the end of the tour, my sister and picked up our prize. For 12 dollars, we got a case of 24 assorted mixes, plus free goody bags with recipe books and boxes of blueberrymuffin mix--the flavor of the month.

Back at my sister's apartment in Chicago, we decided to have a Jiffy feast: a dinner of pizza, corn muffins, and chocolate pudding cake. My sister is living in Chicago only temporarily, so she has almost nothing in her apartment (I was literally sleeping on the floor for the week). Started from mixes made baking much easier. We needed no measuring spoons, no mixer,

and no ingredients like vanilla or baking soda that she wouldn't have occasion to use again. For a measuring cup, we used a jam jar with liquid ounce markings. And for baking dishes, we stopped at the Village Discount (an incredible thrift store if you're ever in Chicago) for an 8*8 and a mixing bowl (60 cents each). The muffin tin my sister had conveniently bought me as a gift at an estate sale.

The muffins were delicious. We strayed from the recipe on the box because we wanted a bit of kick (we added cheese and chiles). The muffins had a strong corn flavor, and they were neither greasy nor dry (two common failings of box mixes). The portion size was also just right. The box makes only six small muffins, perfect for me, my sister, and her husband. I guess there's a reason, Jiffy makes "America's Favorite" corn muffin mix! The pizza was the real star of the night. After overcoming the challenge of having no cooking sheet (by deciding to grill the pizza), and having no flour in the house (by using corn meal instead to keep the dough from sticking), we threw the pizza on the grill with some caramelized onions, fresh corn, fresh cherry tomatoes, tomato

sauce, basil, and queso fresco. It was wonderful!! The best store bought dough I've ever had. The crust had just the right

balance of chewy and crunchy. On to dessert, the chocolate pudding cake, our selection from the recipe book, was good in a more familiar and nostalgic sort of way. It tasted exactly like Swiss Miss. And the strawberry rice milk ice cream we ate it with tasted exactly like the scent of a Strawberry Short Cake doll. We certainly gobbled it up, but it didn't have an especially strong chocolate flavor.

All in all, I think the Jiffy dinner was a major success. And, as you can see from the picture below, I still have quite a few mixes to work through, so I will let you know which turn out to be winners. - Franklin

Jiffy Corn Muffins Total Time: 20 minutes; Sweetness Factor: 1; Indulgence Factor: 3; Difficulty Factor: 1; Chance We'll Make it Again: 10.

1 Box Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1/4 finely chopped cheddar cheese
1/2 can diced green chiles

Preheat the oven to 400 and butter six compartments in a muffin tin. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the tops of the muffins start turn golden brown at the edges. About 15 minutes.

Jiffy Pizza Total Time: 45 minutes; Sweetness Factor: 1; Indulgence Factor: 3; Difficulty Factor: 3; Chance We'll Make it Again: 10.

1 Box Jiffy Pizza Crust mix
1/2 cup hot tap water
A few tablespoons of flour or corn meal for kneading.
1 large onion finely sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1 ear of corn
A handful of loosely chopped basil
Queso fresco

Get the onions going in a saute pan on low heat. Cook until they begin to wilt and add olive oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about twenty minutes. While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven (or gas grill) to 425. Combine the pizza crust mix with the hot water and stir. Let sit for five minutes. Dump onto a floured (or corn mealed countertop or board and knead several times.

After greasing your fingers, spread the dough out onto a cookie sheet or a folded piece of tin foil. Don't forget to grease the pan or foil first (I skipped this step, and we had a hard time separating the hot pizza from the foil).

Bake for a few minutes on each side, then add your toppings, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Chocolate Pudding Cake Total Time: 45 minutes; Sweetness Factor: 9; Indulgence Factor: 8; Difficulty Factor: 2; Chance We'll Make it Again: 3.

1 box Jiffy Devil's Food cake mix
1 egg
1/2 cup water
1 box Jiffy Fudge Frosting mix
1 1/3 cups milk
1/4 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease the 8*8. Combine the first three ingredients and mix thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan. Combine the remainder of the ingredients in a sauce pan and heat (on low), stirring frequently, until the butter is melted. Slowly pour mixture into the baking pan on top of batter. Bake for about 30 minutes. The cake will look down on top but the pudding portion will be bubbling up around the edges. Serve warm (I think this step is pretty critical) with your favorite fruit and ice cream.

No comments:

Post a Comment