Category Archives: Virgin Recipe

Virgin Recipe: Molded Vegetable Relish

Your Humble Narrator tasting the Jell-O

Why did this take me so long?

It feels like ages since I did a nasty Jell-O, but it’s only been a couple of months. I’ve been having a weird relationship with time lately. On the one hand, time in the Trump regime goes by slowly, what with all the drama and “bombshell” news. It’s hard to believe it’s only been four months since the inauguration. On the other hand, on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis, time slips through my hands like water as I try to get done everything I want to do (work, gym, spending time with spouse and cats, Jell-O, guitar, Fallout…) but somehow I get sucked into the interwebs or old movies on TCM instead. Time has been almost unmanageable, for me at least. Still, I’ve managed to do Molded Vegetable Relish for you.

This is one of those Jell-O molds that strike fear in the hearts of random people on the internet. Oh no! Lime Jell-O with vegetables in it! The horror! But I’ve grown numb to it, and anyway, Molded Vegetable Relish couldn’t be as bad as the last couple of weeks have been for the U.S.

bowls of cabble, celery, pickle, and sliced olives

For my Molded Vegetable Relish – chopped cabbage, chopped celery, chopped pickle, and sliced martini olives

Molded Vegetable Relish gives the cook the option of choosing from six different vegetable combinations: 1) cabbage, celery, carrots, and green pepper; 2) cabbage, celery, green pepper, and pimiento; 3) cabbage, celery, pickle, and pimiento; 4) cooked peas, diced celery, and cabbage; 5) cabbage and sliced stuffed olives; or 6) carrots and green pepper. (I’m sensing a theme here…) To make this as repellent as possible, I went for door number three, except that instead of pimientos I used martini olives for maximum nastiness. The recipe is non-specific about the type of pickles, so I used what we had in the fridge, Grillo’s Italian dill slices. So, yes, what we’re talking about here is lime Jell-O with cabbage, celery, chopped dill pickle, and sliced stuffed olives that have been marinating in vermouth.

I have learned that, for the viewers, the most interesting bits of my videos are the ones where I make “yuck faces” as I taste the Jell-O, and I aim to please.

As far as preparation goes, the lime Jell-O gets made more or less in the usual way, a single batch (3-oz. packet) with 3/4 cup cold water instead of a full cup, with the addition of vinegar, salt, pepper, and grated onion. I found myself in the weird position of feeling as though I hadn’t added enough onion to my Jell-O (and that just ain’t right…) After thickening (over an ice water bath), the chopped veggies are mixed in and the whole mess is put into a mold and stuck into the fridge to firm up.

lime Jell-O mold with bits of veggies suspended in it

Molded Vegetable Relish in all its glory

The result was a bright-green mold, the color possibly enhanced by the almost-monochrome solid ingredients. It was certainly visually striking. It almost didn’t look like food. (Almost?)

This was not the worst Jell-O recipe I’ve done, but it definitely wasn’t good. To start with, there really wasn’t enough onion in it. I’m not sure if more would have helped, though. Between the salt and pepper and vinegar, and the salty, vinegary pickles and olives, there should have been enough savory flavoring in this, but all of that just could not cut the sweetness of the lime Jell-O. Instead, the flavors clashed in a rather aggressive way.

As Bryan noted, at least it didn’t have mayonnaise in it.

I took pleasure in shoving most of this down the garbage disposal, so Action Against Hunger is definitely getting a piece of this action.

Virgin Recipe: Richlieu Mold

serving of Jell-o and fruit with whipped topping

Does this mean something?

How I love the recipes that pose questions! The obvious one for Richlieu Mold is what, if anything, is meant by the name. I thought that possibly this is a classic dessert modified for Jell-O, along the lines of Peach Melba. Alas, Mr. Google turned up little in the way of explanation. I found a few versions of something called Bombe Richlieu, which seems to be a rum-and-coffee-flavored frozen dessert that bears little resemblance to Richlieu Mold. An image search on “bombe Richlieu” turns up a bunch of photos of battleships. Now there’s something to ponder…

Dream Whip, cherry Jell-O, slivered almonds, pineapple chunks, sweet dark cherries

Richlieu Mold ingredients

The base of Richlieu Mold is “any red flavor” Jell-O. I went with cherry, partly because I’m getting a little tired of strawberry, but also because one of the ingredients is cherries and I didn’t want to throw too many different flavors in there.

I’m calling this an Orange Boycott recipe because, even though orange Jell-O is in no way involved, the other fruit ingredient is, officially, orange sections cut into chunks, and there’s supposed to be a couple of tablespoons of orange juice in the Jell-O liquid. Anyway, it just feels fitting, now that we’ve passed the 100-day mark (and the “100 days since the Women’s March” point), to make a gesture like this.

As a substitute, I used canned pineapple chunks, and two tablespoons of the juice from the can. I like pineapple.

photo from book of Jell-O mold containing orange sections, and a small dish of whipped topping, on a buffet table

Richlieu Mold circa 1974

The recipe includes a topping, which can be either Dream Whip or Cool Whip (I chose Dream Whip because that’s what Bryan prefers, although to my mind each is creepy in its own special way) mixed with toasted slivered almonds. I toasted the almonds myself, and that was probably the most pleasant part of making this recipe, because toasting almonds smell nice, and it felt good to have the oven going earlier this afternoon on what turned out to be a chilly day – strange, because yesterday was quite warm and humid.

Not surprisingly, the gelatin part is just fruit suspended in Jell-O, so the prep was pretty routine – make the Jell-O as usual, using the canned cherry and pineapple juices instead of cold water, thicken over an ice water bath, fold in the fruit, put it in the mold and chill until firm.

cherry Jell-O mold and dish of whipped topping with toasted slivered almonds

Richlieu Mold á la Freak Mountain

For some reason, the Jell-O was quite stubborn about coming out of the mold this time. (Yes, I remembered to lube the mold!) It wouldn’t unmold until it had been warmed in a water bath to the point of being definitely melty, so it came out looking untidy. I hate when that happens.

For eating it’s a perfectly decent dessert, although I can’t quite get over my particular squeamishness about canned cherries. I mean, I ate them, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. The pineapple chunks are fine in this, possibly better than orange chunks would have been. I prepared the Dream Whip with almond extract instead of vanilla extract, and the extra almond flavor goes well with the gelatin. One small gripe is that the toasted slivered almonds are an odd textural addition to the dish. I found that I had to be conscious of chewing each mouthful thoroughly so that I wouldn’t end up choking a bit on inadequately masticated almond bits. Bryan didn’t have this problem, though, so it was probably just me being lame.

Bryan declared that the cherry flavor was overwhelming, and maybe it was – but better that than orange.

Virgin Recipe: Alaska Surprise

… featuring guest taster JB!

This recipe sounded like it might be a good one for company, and as it happened our friend JB was in need of some diversion, so we invited him to Freak Mountain for a lunch of Bryan’s baked mac’n’cheese, and Jell-O. JB is one of the people who helped to convince me to reboot the blog, so this was long overdue.

Given what we’ve been doing here, it probably won’t come as much of a surprise that Alaska Surprise is baked Alaska, but with Jell-O (any red flavor) instead of ice cream. (Surprise!) The preparation is a little time-consuming because it’s in three stages, done hours apart. First, there’s a batch of clear Jell-O made with a half-cup of ginger ale instead of cold water, which has to be chilled until firm and then cut into cubes. Second, there’s a batch of Jell-O made with a pint of vanilla ice cream instead of cold liquid, which is thickened, and the cubes of clear Jell-O are stirred into it.

Jell-O mold, pink creamy gelatin with darker cubes in it

Alaska Surprise – the naked mold

This is put in either a load pan or a four-cup mold and chilled until firm. The Jell-O gets unmolded and chilled again. As I think you can see in the photo above, I experienced the same problem I had with Crown Jewel Cake, where the creamy gelatin didn’t adhere to the clear Jell-O cubes, which led to cracking and separation.

pink Jell-O with red cubes and meringue on the sides

Very soft meringue around the sides of the mold. The growing crack in the top is clearly visible here.

The third stage is the meringue, done shortly before serving. The directions in the book don’t call for cream of tartar, and I tried whipping up a meringue as directed without it, but it wouldn’t stiffen up properly and I ended up adding a little cream of tartar, which helped, although I think my meringue was still a bit soft for this.

(While I made the meringue, JB raided our cookbook collection for Bryan’s stash of vintage ice cream recipe books. For nearly 30 years, JB has been hosting an annual weekend-long event of camping and creative ice-cream-making that makes the Project seem tame.)

Jell-O mold covered in meringue

Jell-O mold covered in meringue

The mold is sitting on a round of foil because I wanted to be able to transfer it easily from a plate onto whatever I was going to use to put it under the broiler. I mulled over this a fair bit. The book says to put the mold on a board covered with foil. I don’t know who might happen to have a board laying around the kitchen that’s the right size for this, but I sure don’t, so I ended up sliding the mold onto a baking sheet.

very well done meringue

Blink, and suddenly you’ve got blackened meringue…

The meringue ended up very well done on top, and hardly at all on the sides. In my defense, this is my first time using our broiler, and Bryan was not particularly forthcoming with advice on how to use it. The over tends to be slow, so I guess I was assuming the broiler would be, too, especially since it’s electric (in a gas oven, what?), but the coils heated up quickly.

Alaska Surprise with a serving spooned out of it

Alaska… Surprise!

Even though this was only in the oven for maybe a minute and a half, the creamy Jell-O got all melty, not quite liquid but very soft, and the Jell-O cubes were kind of swimming in it. I made regular baked Alaska once when I was a teenager, and the ice cream didn’t melt this much – but, of course, part of the trick to baked Alaska is that you make sure the ice cream is frozen hard before you coat it in meringue and broil it, The Jell-O isn’t as cold, so it starts out closer to melting temperature. That’s science, people.

Bryan and JB thought that maybe I wouldn’t have had so much of a melting issue if I had broiled it on something less heat conductive, but I’m not so sure, because the baking pan didn’t actually get that hot. One thing that might have helped that’s a usual part of baked Alaska is a layer of pound cake on the bottom. A round of pound cake underneath the mold might have insulated it from any heat transferred from the baking sheet, and also soaked up some of the melted Jell-O, which would have been rather nice in its own right. I considered trying that, but after last week’s major deviation from the plot, I wanted to follow this recipe more closely. If anyone really wants to try making their own Alaska Surprise, I would advise going with the pound cake bottom.

For eating, this was intensely sweet. I used strawberry flavored Jell-O because it’s my favorite red flavor, but in retrospect maybe raspberry, which is a little more tart, would have been better. I didn’t care much for the combination of textures, but JB seemed to find it interesting. Both he and Bryan ate all of the servings I gave them but didn’t go for seconds, and we all needed something to drink afterwards.

One thing I realized was that the ginger ale wasn’t noticeable in the clear Jell-O. When I mentioned it to JB, he mused that maybe using something with a more intense flavor would have worked better. I told him about how I’d tried substituting ginger beer for ginger ale once and found that the stronger ginger flavor didn’t really do anything for the recipe. He had an interesting insight, that maybe the ginger ale is meant to enhance the flavor of the Jell-O (as bay leaves do in savory dishes), rather than giving additional flavor to it. That sounds plausible. Let’s go with that.

Afterwards, the sugar coma we experienced lent itself to a viewing of a couple of episodes of series one of Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. If you happen to be out of your favorite recreational substance, it turns out that Alaska Surprise is a reasonable substitute.

A big thanks and hugs to JB for Jell-O’ing with us today!

Virgin Recipe: Peach Gem Pie

orange Jell-O and peaches set in a pie crust

Peach Gem Pie circa 1974

I was a bad girl this week. I deviated significantly from the original recipe for Peach Gem Pie, which is, as you can probably tell from the old photo, just orange Jell-O with peach slices in it, in a pie crust. Oh, yes, and there’s a little almond extract in the Jell-O. Because of my Orange Boycott, I was planning on substituting peach Jell-O for orange anyway, but then after the week we’ve had here in the U.S. and abroad, I just couldn’t face Jell-O in a pie shell. I just couldn’t.

So it occurred to me that I could do what the U.S. Congress failed to do this week – I could take a not-so-good thing and make it better. Following on the success of Easy Fruit Tarts, I decided to turn Peach Gem Pie into a Peach Gem Tart.

tart with peaches and peach flavored gelatin

Peach Gem Pie á la Freak Mountain

I started with Julia Child’s sweet short crust recipe and made a nine-inch tart shell. I spread a layer of French vanilla Jell-O instant pudding in the bottom of the tart shell, arranged Del Monte canned peach slices (so sue me, peaches are well out of season right now) in a pretty pattern on the pudding, and spooned thickened peach Jell-O over the peaches to form a glaze. I forgot to add the almond extract to the Jell-O (rather than listening to music while I worked, I was listening to NPR programming and got distracted) but remedied that somewhat by serving the tart with almond-flavored whipped cream.

The end result was not bad at all. It certainly looks prettier than the pie shown in the book. Orange Jell-O has a garish hue, but peach Jell-O is actually a rather pretty color. The flavor is subtler, too, and I wonder whether it would have made a difference if I’d remembered to add the almond extract. Probably not. These Jell-O recipes tend to be pretty timid about the added flavors. I was a little dubious about whether the almond flavor would go with the peaches, but in the whipped cream it worked much better than I expected.

slice of Peach Gem Tart with a dollop of whipped cream

Definitely serve with whipped cream

I did make a few mistakes. The main one is that the crust turned out tough; most likely I overworked it, got a little cocky after it turned out so well last time. Another is that I added too much almond extract to the whipped cream. A teaspoon of vanilla extract to a half-pint of whipping cream works well; a teaspoon of almond extract is, I’m thinking, about twice as much as you want. (The aftertaste, it burns…) Finally, one three-ounce package each of pudding and Jell-O is way too much for a single nine-inch tart. It was fine because I ate the leftovers, but if anyone wants to try to recreate this, I recommend planning on making two tarts. Seriously, this turned out to be a decent dessert. Bring them to Easter dinner. The colors are seasonal, and I could see this working well after a main course of ham. Ham from a can. Oh, the memories… Did I mention it was a rough week?

Virgin Recipe: Jellied Salad Niçoise

photo of the salad before serving

Jellied Salad Niçoise

Did you miss me last week? No? Okay, but I missed you. I missed you so much, I made you this lovely Jellied Salad Niçoise.

lettuce, green beans, green pepper, tuna, heavy cream, tomato, lemon Jell-O, vinegar, anchovies, mayonnaise, red onion, Good Seaons Italian dressing, black olives, egg

It’s hard to imagine, but all of these things went into a single Jell-O recipe.

These savory Jell-O recipes keep disappointing me – not because they’re so bad, but because they’re not bad enough. Jellied Salad Niçoise had so much potential, and then failed to live up to it. Just look at the motley crew of ingredients I had to assemble for this. Anchovies! Mayonnaise! Italian dressing! The only way that this could come out was “badly”.

So I got stuck into preparing it, and this was possibly the most involved Jell-O recipe I’ve done so far. It took a good two hours to put together, much of which involved chopping vegetables, although it all started off with hard-boiling an egg.

picture of the recipe as it appears in the book

Proof that I am not making this up…

Rather than describe the whole process, I’m just going to give you a picture of the recipe, straight out of the book. Even just reading it, it sounds kind of nuts.

The weirdest part is that it requires what I think of as “a single batch” (that is, a three-ounce box) of Jell-O, with less cold water than usual. It wasn’t enough to cover the solid ingredients in the mold, and I was sure that when I went to unmold it, the whole thing would fall apart and be a complete disaster. I was pretty excited by that prospect, because I thought it would make for some good video. It’s been too long since this blog has lived up to its true potential as a sort of culinary “Jackass”, and I was hopeful, but this surprised me. As you can see from the photo, Jellied Salad Niçoise unmolded unexpectedly well. I was sure that the loose bed of chopped lettuce at the bottom would make the whole thing unstable and lead to a collapse, but I suppose by now I should have more faith in the Jell-O.

For eating, it wasn’t very good, but it could have been worse. It turned out that one chopped up boiled egg wasn’t enough to stink up the whole dish, and even the anchovy-tinged mayonnaise was less repulsive than it could have been (unless, I suppose, you’re one of those people who just hate mayonnaise on principle).

tuna-veggie salad in mold before adding Jell-O

Jellied Salad Niçoise Sans Jelly

While I was in the midst of making it, Bryan strolled into the kitchen and pointed out that, if not for the Jell-O, this wouldn’t be such a terrible recipe. Indeed, the Salad Niçoise didn’t look so bad in the mold before I poured Jell-O over it and piled on the chopped lettuce. Aside from leaving out the Jell-O, I would have preferred a simpler dressing, just some oil and vinegar with a little salt and pepper, which is what I generally prefer for salad dressing. We don’t use store-bought bottled dressings, which is why I used the Good Seasons.

Needless to say, Bryan and I didn’t eat more than one portion of Jellied Salad Niçoise, and the rest went straight into the garbage disposal. A donation is being made to Action Against Hunger to atone.

I’m trying not to go too heavy on the politics here, but I’m still resisting, and for the video I wore a “pussy hat” made by my friend Donna, who has an Etsy shop and has been doing a brisk business in pussy hats lately. (She also makes other kinds of hats, jewelry, accessories, and toys.) If you like it, please check out her shop, Via Donna, at https://www.etsy.com/shop/ViaDonna.

Virgin Recipe: Parfait Pie

Where to start with this one? Where to start?

Actually, for eating Parfait Pie is not bad at all, but I was scratching my head over the name. I’d always thought that a parfait dessert is one that’s layered.

Wikipedia to the rescue! It turns out that the layered parfait is an American dessert. In France, a parfait (or “perfect”) is a sort of frozen custard. I’m going to be generous and assume that it’s the latter dessert that’s being alluded to in the name “Parfait Pie”.

raspberry pie in chocolate crumb ceust garnished with piped Dream Whip

Parfait Pie

So, with that settled, Parfait Pie is simply Jell-O (a three-ounce packet dissolved in 1.25 cup boiling water, not cooled with additional cold water) mixed with a pint of vanilla ice cream, set in a pie shell, and decorated with Dream Whip. I deviated a little from the recipe in using a chocolate cookie crumb crust instead of a plain pie shell, just because I thought it would make for a nicer pie. (It did.) I’ve been having kind of a rough time lately, and I need all the help I can get.

round ice cream scoop

The right tool for the job…

In case anyone wants to try to make this, I can definitely recommend using a small, round ice cream scoop and gradually adding the ice cream to the hot Jell-O liquid. The liquid will cool off quickly, making it harder to get the ice cream to melt, but the small scoops melt well with maybe a little mashing towards the end. The recipe says to put the still-liquid Jell-O and ice cream mixture into the pie crust, but I decided to thicken it over an ice-water bath so I could heap it into the pie plate if I needed to. As it turned out, it fit perfectly into a nine-inch pie plate with a crumb crust made with roughly three-quarters of a package of Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers and a quarter cup of melted butter. (If I were doing it again, I’d use more butter, but this sort of worked.) The pie filling took a while to thicken, and I was a little concerned about how firm it would be when it was set, but I’ve been able to get proper slices out of it – it’s firm, but only just.

The other mildly puzzling thing is that the recipe calls for a garnish done with one cup of Dream Whip. Dream Whip comes in packets that make up about two cups of whipped topping. That means you’re supposed to make a batch of Dream Whip and use half of it – and do what with the other half? I decided to just use the whole thing to garnish the pie, but found that I had (surprise, surprise) about half of the batch left over in my piping bag. I served the Parfait Pie with extra dollops of Dream Whip on the side. Bryan claims to prefer Dream Whip to Cool Whip, but I’m not sure that that means he actually likes it.

The recipe says to use either orange, strawberry or raspberry Jell-O. I let Bryan pick, and he chose raspberry. (I think I would have preferred strawberry, to be honest).

Orange was, of course, right out. Strictly speaking, I don’t need to do this since I’ve successfully avoided using orange Jell-O for this recipe, but I think that in honor of Presidents Day, I’m going to make donations to Planned Parenthood and the International Rescue Committee. This has been a weekend of “resisting” as well as making Jell-O. Yesterday Bryan and I “stood up for science” at a demonstration in Boston that was organized to coincide with the AAAS annual meeting. I’m kind of a “geek groupie”, and I make my living supporting science, so this was the place to be on Sunday.

people with signs at demonstration in front of Trinity Church

Standing up for science in Copley Square, Boston

Virgin Recipe: Banana Nut Ring with Ginger Topping

photo of dish from book

Banana Nut Ring with Ginger Topping, circa 1974

At last, I get to do an Orange Boycott post! (After the last couple of weeks, I was really looking forward to this.) As you can sort of tell in the photo from the book, Banana Nut Ring calls for orange Jell-O. I substituted Island Pineapple flavor, which I think tastes better anyway.

This recipe is a two-parter. First, there’s the ring mold, which is simply Jell-O with banana slices and chopped pecans stirred into it once it’s thickened up. There are a couple of issues with this.

The first, as I’ve noted in Mardi Gras Mold and Honey Pecan Bavarian, is that nuts in Jell-O are just weird. Those are two textures that do not go well together. Luckily, I like pecans, so this one wasn’t nasty on top of being weird.

The second is the bananas. I had to try not to be too annoyed, because it’s just “banana nature”, but the slices would stick together (which I had discovered with Peach-Banana Dessert but I guess it didn’t bug me as much then). You would think that once you add banana slices to a bowl of thickened Jell-O, the Jell-O will act as a coating or lubricant to keep the slices separate, but as much as I stirred and tried to separate them, the slices kept clumping up. It’s best to look upon this as an exercise in patience.

bnringredients

Ingredient for Banana Nut Ring with Ginger Topping

Anyway, I whipped up the Jell-O ring and chilled it overnight. Upon unmolding it, I discovered one small drawback to using the Island Pineapple flavor – the mold was a very odd color, I think rather like how Bryan sees green things because of his colorblindness. On the other hand, the peculiar yellow-brown hues reminded me of color palettes that were popular in the 1970s, so that was kind of a happy accident. Okay, not so much happy, but appropriate.

The second part of the recipe is the “Ginger Topping”, a bit of a misnomer because it’s pretty thick, and it gets piled into the center of the ring mold rather than spread on top of it. This is just a batch of Dream Whip with crushed pineapple and slivered candied ginger folded into it. Tasting it, I decided that the Ginger Topping is a bit of all right. Because of the fairly strong vanilla flavor of the Dream Whip, it reminded me of pineapple upside-down cake, which I haven’t had since I was a kid, but I may have to make it sometime soon, even if I have to use a store-bought cake mix to do it. Also, it reminded me of ambrosia salad a bit, plus I dig candied ginger (I was noshing on it while cutting up what I needed for the recipe), so what’s not to like?

the finished product on a platter

Banana Nut Ring with Ginger Topping á la Freak Mountain

The finished product was straight outta the 1970s, and I was pleased. The photo looks strange, but I swear that was the actual color of the thing. It was like someone had sent it over in a customized DeLorean, express delivery from 1974.

For eating, this was surprisingly good. Yes, I’m saying “good”. For once, the flavors blended together nicely in a tropical (that is, southern United States) mélange. With the topping, it was easy enough to overlook the peculiar textural note of the pecan chunks in the Jell-O. The flavor of pineapple was predominant, but the pecans, bananas, and Dream Whip were assertive enough. I would have liked more ginger flavor, though; rather than trying to sliver the slices of crystallized ginger, I should have chopped them up fine so that they’d be more thoroughly distributed throughout the topping.

The main drawback to this recipe was that it was relatively straighforward and quick to make, and while preparing it and listening to music took me to my happy place for a while, I didn’t get to spend enough time there.

On the positive side, once I hit “publish” on this one, I’ll be all caught up with my editorial calendar, and that’s one less thing to feel crappy about. Woo hoo!