Virgin Recipes: Cool Cubes, Banana-Marshmallow Special
Today we’re back to the kids’ stuff, and doubling up to get that much closer to finishing by the end of the year.
Cool Cubes is an Orange Boycott recipe that originally called for orange Jell-O and mandarin orange sections. Luckily, this is a pretty simple recipe that’s easy to make with other flavors and fruit. All it is, really, is Cubed Gelatin layered in a tall glass with fruit, so I went with grape Jell-O and, for contrast, green grapes. In my not so humble opinion, this was probably nicer looking and tastier than the original recipe, which would have been quite boring.
Somehow, there was whipped cream left over from last week’s Fruit Flavor Flakes, so I used it to top our Cool Cubes. To be honest, though, grape Jell-O doesn’t go as well with cream as the berry or peach flavors. It wasn’t bad, just… I mean, you wouldn’t make an ice cream float with grape soda, would you?
I asked Bryan if he liked cubed or flaked gelatin better. He was noncommittal.
Banana-Marshmallow Special was the more kidlike of these two, probably because of the inclusion of miniature marshmallows.
It wasn’t as simple to make as Cool Cubes, which is why, I imagine, I managed to screw it up a little bit. The recipe says to make a single batch of strawberry Jell-O and chill until almost set, to prevent the marshmallows from floating to the top. Well, I was using the trusty cold-water bath method to chill the Jell-O, but I didn’t have quite enough ice, and I was getting a little impatient, so I added the banana slices and marshmallows when the Jell-O was thick, but not quite almost set. I added extra marshmallows and banana slices, so there wasn’t so much a problem with solid ingredients floating to the surface, but the powdered sugar coating on the marshmallows came off in the viscous Jell-O and formed a sort of colloidal suspension in the gelatin, which is why the Jell-O part looks a bit cloudy. I wonder if a kid would do better, but I rather doubt it.
The Jell-O with marshmallows and bananas in it gets put in glasses, dishes or paper cups to set. There’s another Junior Cooks recipe coming up that says to put the Jell-O in paper cups, and that got me to thinking that maybe I could use Dixie riddle cups for these recipes. That just goes to show how far away from any kid-centered orbit I am, because it turns out that Dixie riddle cups went away a long time ago, and failed to stick around past a short-lived revival twenty years ago. The designs on modern paper cups just don’t appeal to me, so instead I got some reusable plastic cup containers, which will make it easier for me to bring the leftovers to work for lunch.
I added some mini-marshmallow to the top of the Jell-O in the cups – I don’t know why, because it’s not like this wasn’t sweet enough already. It’s what kid-me would have done, for sure.
We ate Cool Cubes and Banana-Marshmallow Special in one sitting. Unsurprisingly, Bryan preferred the Banana-Marshmallow Special, mainly because of the marshmallows. I think I preferred the Cool Cubes, though, and this was more because of the bananas. I don’t love bananas in Jell-O. It’s mainly a texture thing. Although I like bananas, there’s something a little creepy about them. They make me think about bugs, especially the more ripe they are. The bananas I used in this recipe were ones I had bought at the supermarket the same morning I made the Jell-O, so it’s not like they were very ripe, but they were a weird texture in a dish that was, let’s be honest, all weird textures, very firm Jell-O and marshmallows that had softened a bit from contact with the thick-but-not-set gelatin.
Still, there was something about Banana-Marshmallow Special that really said “1970s” to me. I think kid-me would have really liked it. 50-year-old me wasn’t so keen on the way the sugar had coated my mouth when I was done eating it. I’m starting to understand why people might be keen to recapture their lost youth.
Virgin Recipe: Banana Nut Ring with Ginger Topping
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.
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 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!
Virgin Recipe: Peach-Banana Dessert
Okay, let me just start by saying that I’m feeling a little annoyed about this one. Not because it was so difficult – quite the opposite, in fact. After the last couple of weeks, it would have been kind of therapeutic to work on a recipe that’s a little more involved than this, something requiring a little more focus, to take me to my Zen happy place.
I paid more than usual attention to the Republican and Democratic conventions, and came out of it feeling as though I’d been worked over with a bad-cop-good-cop routine. In Jell-O terms, the Republican convention was Molded Ham and Egg Salad, and the Democratic convention was a rainbow Jell-O mold. The Republican convention was so dismal in tone and so badly run that it made the Democratic convention look almost too good by comparison. Tim Kaine’s goofy sweetness was a welcome change from, say, Chris Christie’s kangaroo court routine, or Ben Carson’s loopy speech in which he obliquely accused Hillary Clinton of Satan worship. I found Bill Clinton’s affectionate account of his life with Hillary touching even though it was hard to square with my memory of the Monica Lewinsky thing. I’m not usually susceptible to American patriotic optimism, but after four days of the Republicans shouting at us that we’re all doomed and Donald Trump alone can save us, it was a relief. I felt like Winston Smith having finally surrendered to Big Brother. And, to be clear, I don’t mean that in a good way.
I wish I could feel more excited about the fact that a woman has been nominated as a candidate for president of the United States. It’s historic, for us, but in this we’re behind a lot of other countries, from Great Britain to Pakistan. Also, Clinton hasn’t won yet. I’m afraid that if she does, she (and we) will have to endure sexism on a similar level to the racism we’ve seen aimed at President Obama for the last seven and a half years. On the other hand, the prospect of a Trump presidency is terrifying. Either way, the next four and a half years are going to be rough.
And then there’s Peach-Banana Dessert, damn it – just another fruit-suspended-in-Jell-O. The ingredients are: one 3-ounce package strawberry Jell-O, one sliced banana, and one 1-pound can sliced peaches. As usual, the peaches presented a problem. One-pound cans now weigh 15.25 ounces. Sigh.
The preparation, quite typically, involves dissolving the powdered gelatin in a cup of boiling water and adding the syrup from the peaches plus water to equal a cup of cold liquid. The resulting liquid gelatin was still quite hot, but the directions say to pour it into dessert dishes and then add the fruit. I read this, and looked at my glass dessert dishes, and wondered if thermal shock was not a thing in 1974. Exploding glasses would not have made this more fun, so I thickened the gelatin over an ice water bath (also nice because the weather was hot and humid when I did this), stirred in the banana slices, put the gelatin into my kittykat wine glasses (a gift from my friend K–), and added the peaches. Voila!
This was definitely improved by the addition of whipped cream, but it was fine as is. The canned peaches turned out to be surprisingly decent (Del Monte brand, in case you’re curious), especially compared to the frozen peaches I used in Jellied Peach Melba. Peaches are difficult because it seems like the only way they’re really any good is if they’re fresh in season. To hear some people tell it, the only places you can get good peaches are Georgia and South Carolina. (Which state has the better peaches in the subject of religious debate.) The town where I grew up in western Massachusetts is home to a peach orchard or two, and I remember having good fresh peaches as a kid, so I know what I’m missing now.
The thing with fruit-in-Jell-O is that it always seems like a dessert for sick, elderly, or mentally ill people. It’s kind of funny that I think that now, because I remember as a kid liking Jell-O with canned fruit cocktail in it. There was something fascinating about canned fruit cocktail, that weird thing that happened to the grapes in the canning process, and the cherries actually seemed edible. Yet another reason to feel good about getting older…