Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad

On rare occasions, my blogs overlap. My other blog, Cardinal Girl, is dedicated to the St. Louis Cardinals, and I sometimes do book reviews. I came across “Cooking with the Cardinals” – a cookbook from 1985 chock full of recipes by the Cardinals and their wives. Luminaries in the book include Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee…and Tom Lawless.

While not the most famous Cardinal of the era, Tom did contribute one of the best recipes in the book: the iconic Strawberry Pretzel Salad.  This recipe had been in my mom’s recipe box for many years, and it’s a dish I’ve made quite a few times over the years and seen at many Midwestern gatherings.

This one’s good enough for me to include the recipe.

2 2/3 cups crushed pretzels
3/4 cup margarine, melted
3 tbs sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese
1 8 0z pkg Cool Whip
2 pkgs (3 oz each) strawberry jello
2 cups boiling water
1 pint frozen strawberries, with juice

Mix pretzels, margarine and 3 tbs sugar. Press on sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Bake 10 mins at 350 degrees. Cool. Cream 3/4 cup sugar with cream cheese; add Cool Whip and mix thoroughly. Spread on top of cooled pretzel crust. Dissolve jello in boiling water. Cool. Add strawberries and juice. Pour on top of cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until set.

People are skeptical, but they can’t help but be bewitched by  the sweet/savory combo of the pretzel crust, the cream cheese, Cool Whip, and strawberry jello. And lots of sugar. Even jello haters are converted by this one, I promise ya.

While most famous during his career as a player for being the only player traded for Pete Rose, Tom Lawless has gotten involved in management since retiring and is now managing one of the minor league teams here in SoCal – the Lancaster Jethawks.

October 12, 2010 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

Bacon Vodka Jello Shots

So, I’ve been neglecting my jello duties. Sometimes life interferes with jello-making. Like I went to Burning Man for a week – you really can’t make jello under those conditions. But now I’m back, and it’s time to catch up.

My colleague HungryKat came up with the idea of having a Bacon Vs. Dessert Cook Off at the office.  There would be prizes for the best bacon item, the best dessert, and a grand prize for the best dessert involving bacon. Naturally, I wanted to try for the grand prize, and I wanted to involve jello. I didn’t find many jello and bacon recipes online, and none in my cookbooks, but I did find this intriguing jello shot as created by the inspired bloggers at My Jello Americans. Browse their site and behold true jello artistry!

I didn’t have time to follow their directions and make my own bacon vodka (it takes weeks), but I did find Bakon – bacon-flavored vodka – for sale online. I ordered a bottle, along with the gummy fried eggs that would be the garnish.

This was my first time using Knox gelatin – the plain stuff – and I think I would blame the failure of this jello shot on the Knox.  I’m not sure what flavor would have been better, but perhaps peach would have gone well with the bacon – in a bacon-wrapped melon kinda way. It certainly would have looked nicer. The beige color of the plain gelatin made the drink resemble a shot of jellied gravy. Well, really, when you float bacon in jello, it’s just probably not going to taste very good no matter what you do.  Adding maple syrup didn’t improve things. You can put lipstick on a pig, but…

Although I knew they were too noxious to win, I decided to bring the shots to work for comedic value, and people did get a kick out of them. Some brave souls ventured to try them, but I didn’t get many votes. Some complained the shots were too big, which was true, but I had to make them big enough to include a small piece of bacon, plus the gummy fried egg, so a standard shot glass wouldn’t suffice.

In the boozy bacon department, Bacon-infused bourbon was much more successful and tied with HungryKat’s bacon-wrapped hot dogs for the Best Bacon award.  A gooey butter cake won Best Dessert (yay for the St. Louis creation!), and some delicious bacon toffee took Best Bacon Dessert.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find a jello and meat recipe that works. But I guess I’m going to have to keep trying if I’m going to get through The New Joys of Jello

October 12, 2010 at 6:20 am 6 comments

Have another cherry…

I’m sad to report that my good friend and Ape Culture co-editor Nerdia recently moved from LA to Santa Fe. While I have no doubt our friendship and creative partnership will remain strong across the miles, I will definitely miss seeing her regularly.  Before she left, we got together to watch one of our favorite films: The Witches of Eastwick. This movie features a merger of our celebrity obsessions. I’m a big Jack Nicholson fan, and Mary is a Cher Scholar.  When we were roommates and Witches would happen to be on TV, we used to play a game where we’d notice how far into the movie it was based on the start time on the TV guide channel and try to guess what scene would be on before turning to the movie. We were scarily accurate in these predictions due to obsessive watching of the film over the years.  A small corner of my brain is devoted to having memorized most of Jack’s lines in the film.  Although it’s been about 20 years since I watched it repeatedly, I can still remember most of the soliloquies.

Anyway, I’m digressing from the topic of this blog: Jell-O.  As I enjoy theming jello dishes to my parties, I knew that the jello for this occasion would have to feature cherries.  If you’ve seen the film, you know why – if not, you need to see it! I decided to make two recipes – Cherry Chiffon from The New Joys of Jell-O and Coke Salad – a beloved recipe from my youth.

Cherry Chiffon was the more popular of the two dishes. Most people had seconds.  It involved cherry jello, cool whip, and a can of dark cherries. The recipe also called for using ice instead of cold water, which allows the jello to set super-fast. This was definitely handy and a tip I’ll keep in mind for when I have jello-making time constraints. It turned out pretty with the contrast between the jello and cherries layer and the jello and cool whip layer.

Coke Salad was popularized in my childhood by my friend Christine’s mother, Barb Horace.  Since Christine and I have been friends since kindergarten, Barb has been like a second mother to me, and she has made Coke Salad for me on many occasions.  It never fails to cheer me up. She and I both love Coca Cola and adding it to jello can only produce a winner. This recipe is simple.

Coke Salad

1  3 oz black cherry jello
1 cup hot water
1 cup Coke
1 pkg Philadelphia cream cheese
1 can black cherries (drained)
pecans (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Chill until set.

It can be hard to find black cherry jello sometimes, but luckily Ralph’s had it in stock. Folks didn’t really express much enthusiasm over this one. I partially blame myself for using the hand mixer to try to get the cream cheese to blend in with the jello better. When it doesn’t blend in, it makes the jello mold resemble cellulite. My vigorous hand mixing resulted in the spattering of the cherries everywhere (kinda like the cherry scenes in the movie), so the finished dish lacked the zing of whole cherries. I do recommend you try this dish yourself though. It kind of tastes like Dr. Pepper.

Fortunately, neither dish caused an upchucking of cherries, although that would be a sort of homage to the movie, I guess. Watch the clip if you don’t know the connection between The Witches of Eastwick and cherries – but watch at your own risk, and preferably not while eating these jello molds.

August 25, 2010 at 6:38 am 1 comment

Jarritos: Not Jello, But Colorful and Sweet

Recently, I was sent a sampler box of Jarritos as part of their promotional efforts to increase awareness of the brand and their Club Jarritos game (collect points on the bottle caps, win prizes) and Jarritos Nation game (Post your pic on the site to identify your location, win prizes).  I had only limited experience with Jarritos prior to this shipment.  Mainly, I had used the pineapple varietal in a tropical punch recipe that called for pineapple soda, and it worked well.

I have to say I loved the rainbow look of the Jarritos bottles all in a row on my counter. If not for having such limited counter space, I probably would have left them displayed for a while.  I thought most of the sodas were tasty and some I would definitely buy again. What makes them good? 100% Natural Sugar. Yes, the same ingredient that makes Mexican Coke such a treat.

My favorite Jarritos was the Mandarin. I would pick this over Orange Crush and even “Thirsty? Just Whistle” Orange Vess. Vess is a St. Louis soda brand that I often coveted as a child because my mom would only buy Diet Shasta.

The Jarritos sodas are very, very sweet – sometimes, too sweet – the pineapple flavor especially. I find it’s good in the punch when mixed with booze, but too sweet by itself. The fruit punch is also very sweet but I enjoyed it. It reminded me of Hawaiian Punch. I think most of these flavors would be good mixed with vodka for summer cocktails by the pool.

I was intrigued by the Jamaica flavor. Was it supposed to taste like the island of Jamaica? I expected a jerk chicken soda, but instead got an unidentifiable fruity yet acrid taste. Looking it up, I found out it’s Hibiscus. I wasn’t crazy about this one. I’m not a big fan of flowery sodas.

Another one I really like is the grapefruit flavor – Toronja.  It’s delightfully refreshing.

I recommend Jarritos if you are not diabetic and are in the mood for interesting flavors such as guava, mango, and tamarind and a break from the Diet Coke routine.

July 18, 2010 at 12:13 am Leave a comment

Happy Fourth of Jello

Fireworks, parades, air shows, BBQs…and patriotic jello molds: those are the things that say Fourth of July to me.

I recently acquired two patriotic jello molds: an American flag mold and an Uncle Sam hat mold. I bought them on eBay, but they were originally promotional items – buy X amount of jello, get the mold free.  I followed the recipes that came with the molds.  The ingredients were very simple – a red flavor of jello, berry blue jello, and whipped cream. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the recipes close enough to realize I was supposed to have cooking spray on hand to spray the plastic molds before adding jello.  And when I went to make the molds at 10pm on Saturday night and realized this error, I didn’t feel like going out to the store.  I tried to grease the molds with butter, but this wasn’t a good substitute. Consequently, neither mold came out cleanly, and the flag mold was ripped in a way that would have offended any red-blooded American who isn’t already offended by the idea of depicting the flag in jello.

Sunday morning, we joined the parade around my condo complex, mostly because I wanted an excuse to put my dog Edgar in an Uncle Sam outfit.  After the parade, we adjourned to the clubhouse for entertainment from the Over the Hill Band and pot luck.  I stopped home to drop off Edgar and unmold the flag jello.  Although I soaked it in warm water and ran a warm knife around the edge, I still experienced the aforementioned ripping. I thought it was almost too sloppy to bring to the party, but Dave told me I was overreacting. He was right. The crowd, consisting mostly of two of Jello’s most loyal constituencies –seniors and kids — devoured the mold.  People wanted to know who made it and commented that it must have taken hours.  Well, it’s not exactly slaving over a hot stove all day, but I did have to make a layer, go away for a while, and then add another layer, rinse, repeat.  It tasted fine, and while my jello pride swelled with the positive reviews, I remained disappointed with my art direction. I guess my flag jello has a certain Jasper Johnsian quality – smudgy, but homespun.

Sunday afternoon, we had a couple friends join us for BBQ and I unveiled the Uncle Sam mold.  This mold has two compartments so you can make the whole thing at once and avoid the layering time.  Again, it came out sloppy.  The flag mold was tastier, due to the layers of different flavor. I’m not very good at decorating with Reddi Whip.

Oh well..my disappointment at the unmolding issues was overshadowed by the fun I had at the parade and the Culver City High School fireworks display and especially by the discovery of a new Jell-O and Cool Whip cookbook at the grocery store – don’t miss it!

I hope you all had a great Fourth! Check out all Dave’s photos from the parade.

July 6, 2010 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

Salmon Dill Mousse

I think I put off writing about this Jellopalooza recipe because making it and eating it was just such a horrific experience that I had to take 2 weeks off making jello to recover.  The fishy smell and taste of the canned salmon mixed with the sweet lemon jello, plus mayo and sour cream – well, it was just an abomination. I’ve had nightmares about it.

It’s just insane that this dish is pictured in the book as part of an all-jello wedding reception in the chapter entitled “Salads for Special Events”.  The bride and groom look so happy – they obviously haven’t yet tasted the Salmon Dill Mousse. Says the book, “Lucky is the bride who has her reception prepared by the loving hands of family and friends.” Um, lucky is the bride who gets a caterer!

The recipe calls for lemon jello. Once thickened, you blend in canned salmon, sour cream, mayo, minced onion and dill weed.  This is where things got frightening. I had not eaten canned salmon before. I expected it to look like canned tuna. I was not prepared for it to have bones in it.  The experience of pulling out the bones, some skin, and what looked like vertabrae (the recipe refers to it as “flaking”) was somehow just repulsive.   I’m not the only one who feels this way – I found a thread about it. And here’s a blog entry on cluckandtweet.com, where the resulting fish patties turned out good but the pics of the canned salmon really show the grossness. I borrowed one of the pics to post here.

The fishy smell was overwhelming. I love salmon in restaurants and never find it to be fishy, but this canned salmon was just really pungent.  After flaking the canned salmon, I threw it into the jello and added the other ingredients.  Blending it was an exercise in trying to hold back nausea. The greasy mayo mixing in with the fish and the jello and sour cream – blech.  I had to leave the kitchen for a few minutes and then steel myself to come back and finish.  I knew at this point that it was going to be just as disgusting to eat as it was to make.  I poured the mix into my fish jello mold and left it overnight.

As the time approached for the party, I wondered if I could actually serve this. It did successfully mold, so I guess that is one positive thing I can say about it. It still smelled fishy, and it looked pre-digested.  Knowing my friends had signed on for a difficult mission in attending this party, I put it out on the buffet.

Not surprisingly, people were repulsed by it, and it scored 1.7 (on a scale of 1-5). It was the second-to-lowest rated dish, after Turkey Souffle (1.4).

Some comments…

“I slightly like this better than turkey. On a cracker, it would be almost like regular mousse” – Ivanna
“Oh my god! Destroy this recipe NOW!! It’s like I found a fish by the side of a river.” – John
“Great on a sandwich” – Dave, who gave it a 4.*
“Vile, and I love salmon and dill.” – Kat
“Wrong. Just wrong” – Aaron
“Shouldn’t be cold. I would eat it if I was stranded on a desert island” – Mary
“Awful smell and taste was not great” – Brian
“Sweet and meat – especially jello dishes – just doesn’t work.” – Darlene

On a positive note, my dog Edgar loved it.  He lapped it right up.  I saved the leftovers to give him but found myself unable to open the tupperware for fear of the smell wafting back up my nostrils. So it sat in the fridge for a couple days while I tried to work up the courage, and then I just threw the whole thing out. Sorry, Edgar, but this Salmon Dill Mousse was just too much for me.

*Dave is my boyfriend, and he’s the only person who praised this one and the turkey souffle. He’s sweet, but I think you should take the boyfriend factor into account when evaluating his comment.

June 21, 2010 at 1:58 am 3 comments

Easy Fruit Tarts

Easy Fruit Tarts were the biggest hit of Jellopalooza.  While they didn’t turn out quite as pretty as the picture in the book, they were still visually appealing and tasty.  I splurged on some gourmet tart shells from Sur La Table.  This was the first recipe in the book that called for Jell-O pudding, so I made the vanilla pudding, chilled it and poured it into the shells.  I then topped the tarts with blackberries, blueberries, and grapes and covered it with a glaze of strawberry gelatin. The recipe recommended strawberry, raspberry or orange gelatin. Next time, I might try orange so the glaze is a bit lighter in color.  The sidebar in the cookbook states: “A beautiful fruit glaze is the secret of professional-looking continental desserts.”  Who knew jello could be so continental?

Easy Fruit Tarts scored 4.6 (on a scale of 1 – 5) from my Jellopalooza guests, making it the highest-rated dish!

Some comments…

“Nice assortment of flavors: pudding, jello, fruit, butter cookie crust” – Christopher
“Tasty and pretty” – Larisa
“Swanky, upscale dessert” – Mary
“Nice texture and flavor. Excellent choice of fruit” – Darlene

I would definitely make these again.

June 21, 2010 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

Jagermeister Jello Shot

Yesterday I went to the Iron Maiden / Dream Theater concert at San Manuel Amphitheater in Glen Helen, CA (aka Glen Hell).  I decided to make some Jagermeister jello shots for the occasion. I took a recipe from Your Complete Guide to Jello Shots by Aaron Wright and tweaked it a bit.

Jager-Master

3 oz pkg orange jello (I used peach because I didn’t have orange on hand)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
splash of grenadine
1/4 cup amaretto
1/4 cup jagermeister

Mix jello with hot water until dissolved. Add cold water and stir. Let sit a couple minutes, then add booze and stir. Pour into jello shot containers. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Makes 8-10 2 oz. jello shots.

The jello shots came out looking like the color of iced tea. They were pretty tasty. The booze settled to the bottom a bit. Perhaps I didn’t stir long enough.  We had our own little heavy metal parking lot scene. Between 3 jello shots and some red bull and jager and not having eaten much all day, I got pretty drunk pretty fast. Unfortunately, we missed Dream Theater entirely due to traffic, tailgating and a 45-minute long security line into the venue. I have not had great experiences with this venue, but I have to go occasionally as it tends to be the only place the big metal shows play.  You would think by now they would know how to handle crowds better.

I wore my Ozzfest 2005 shirt to commemorate the last time I saw Maiden at the venue, when Bruce Dickinson’s feud with Sharon Osbourne led to Sharon pulling the plug in the middle of their set, throwing eggs at the band, and Bruce cursing her out on stage. I don’t think they’ll be back on Ozzfest anytime soon. Here’s a report on that crazy show.

Iron Maiden waited 30 minutes so that everyone had time to get into the venue before they started. They played about 2 hours. We were disappointed that the set emphasized new material and omitted a lot of classics. Still, the classics they did play such as “Fear of the Dark” and “The Number of the Beast” were awesome, and the giant Eddie onstage is always a highlight.  But, really, guys, you can’t play “Run to the Hills”?

June 21, 2010 at 12:42 am Leave a comment

Jellied Gazpacho

Gazpacho can be refreshing on a summer day. Jellied Gazpacho would not really be refreshing on a day when you are starving in a desert. Veggies in jello is not a good idea.

Lots of veggies went into this one: tomatoes, green peppers, celery, onion, mushrooms (canned), parsleys, chives.  They were suspended in lemon jello – the jello flavor of choice for savory dishes, according to this book (photo of Jellied Gazpacho from the book is above).  The recipe suggested chilling until set but not firm and serving, but it also offered the option to chill overnight and “break up with a fork before serving.” One shouldn’t have to break up gazpacho with a fork.

I thought it was pleasantly spiced, with some tang from Worcestershire sauce, and kinda tasty, if you forget there is jello involved. But I should have chopped the veggies finer so that it would feel more pureed. I have terrible knife skills. That’s why I’m a jello chef and not on Top Chef.

Guests were mostly disgusted by it, giving it a 2 (on a scale of 1 to 5).

Some comments…

“Flavorful, but veggies a little too big – fine chop would improve texture” – Darlene
“Looks pre-digested although taste is not awful” – Brian
“The textures don’t work together. Like a Spring salad mixed with blood clots” – Christopher
“Was afraid to eat this more than anything. Don’t like peppers. Turned me off mushrooms” – Mary
“This is the best of the worst. Congratulations!” – John

June 8, 2010 at 7:11 am Leave a comment

Frosty Mandarin Dessert

Orange is my favorite color, so it was easy to match my outfit to this jello mold.  This was my attempt to recreate the awesome photo that opens the chapter “Bring on the Super Desserts.”  Check out her pantsuit. The pants look like they were upholstered by a furniture store.  And that smile on her face shows the confidence of a woman who knows she has brought the fun and flavor to the party in the form of her jello mold, carefully coordinated to her red outfit.  No wonder her sideburn-sportin’ husband is so proud.

Frosty Mandarin Dessert scored 4.1 (on a scale of 1 to 5) and  took second place for most tasty dish at Jellopalooza, trailing only the Easy Fruit Tarts.  Thank goodness there were a couple of winners.  Since it was a hit, here’s the full recipe.

————————————————————–

Frosty Mandarin Dessert

1 can (11 oz) mandarin orange sections
2 packages (3 oz each) or 1 package (6 oz) Jell-O Orange Gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 pint orange sherbet

Drain oranges, measuring syrup.  Add water to syrup to make one cup.  Dissolve gelatin in boiling water.  Add measured liquid. Add sherbet by spoonfuls, stirring until melted. Chill until thickened.

Fold in oranges, reserving a few for garnish. Pour into a serving bowl or individual serving dishes. Chill until set – at least one hour. Garnish with reserved manadrin orange sections and mint leaves, if desired. Makes about 5 cups or 8 servings.

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Comments from the guests…

“Refreshing” – Ivanna
“A little boring: tastes like plain old orange jello with some mandarin” – Christopher
“Creamy and fruity with tons of flavor. I had seconds.” – Aaron
“Thank God for mandarin orange! Cleanse my palate of the savory hell!!!” – John
“Awesome tasty hug of jello love” – Mary

The sherbet made this one a bowl of frothy fun. I bet it would be even tastier with fresh oranges. I would definitely make it again. And I will try my best to keep matching my outfits to my jello molds.

June 8, 2010 at 6:11 am 1 comment

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