In the spirit of the Halloween season, today’s Jell-O recipes are “Especially for Junior Cooks”.
Don’t ask me about the name on this one. Since this is “for Junior Cooks” you know there’s no alcohol in it. It’s pretty simple, so it’s not like anyone would get a kick out of making it. You just prepare a single batch (three ounce package) of strawberry Jell-O per the instructions on the box, divvy it up between four dessert glasses (make them kind of small, this is only a half-cup of Jell-O per glass), chill it in the fridge until it’s firm, and serve it with a scoop of ice cream on top.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Jell-O á la mode is kind of weird. The combination of textures makes for a peculiar mouth-feel. On the other hand, the recipe doesn’t specify an ice cream flavor, so you don’t need to go with boring old vanilla if you don’t want to. Since the Friendly’s ice cream was still on sale at this supermarket this weekend, we picked up a carton of Forbidden Chocolate (formerly Double Chocolate). Flavor-wise, at least, this went well with the strawberry ice cream. We used up the whipped cream, so we ate this one without and it was fine, but a little spritz would not have gone amiss.
I can imagine a kid liking this. Okay, so it’s Jell-O, but at least you get to have some ice cream with it…
Snack Cups is more a premise than a recipe. You make a batch of Jell-O, any flavor, chill it until firm in paper cups, and add toppings to it before eating. There are topping suggestions:
…prepared whipped topping, sundae sauce, flaked coconut, chopped nuts, chopped or sliced fruit, marshmallow sauce, miniature marshmallows, colored sprinkles…
Actually, this sounds like something you might make for a kid who’s severely lacto-allergic and can’t have a proper ice cream sundae.
There’s enough latitude in this recipe that I decided, in honor of Halloween, to make this one as Dirt Cups, with cookie crumbs and gummy worms as the toppings. I didn’t use the official Kraft recipe, which includes Cool Whip and specifies Oreo cookies for the crumbs. Instead, for the Jell-O I used Devil’s Food flavored Jell-O instant pudding, and for the topping I used crumbs made from Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers (a less sweet, deeper cocoa flavor than Oreos), and Trolli mini sour gummy worms (mainly because I couldn’t find the traditional life-size gummy worms, and also because I thought the minis would fit better in the snack cups.)
Rather than paper cups, I decided to go with clear plastic because part of the fun of a snack called Dirt Cups is getting to see how much it looks like a cup of dirt. Another part of the fun was hiding some of the worms between the pudding layer and the cookie crumb layer. Bryan assumed that the worms he could see at the top of the cup were the only ones, and he was amusingly surprised to find more of them burrowing down there in the dirt.
The Dirt Cups were fun to make, fun to eat, and tasty, although the gummy worms did make for an odd overall texture. On the other hand, it’s Halloween, so what better time to be eating worms in dirt? It was nice to have a Halloween win after last year’s abject failure.
Unfortunately, I find I can’t help but think of my Dirt Cup experience in contrast with a video I saw of our president in the Oval Office hosting children of the press corps for a Halloween event. The children were in costume, and the president was going to give them candy, but first he needed to speak with them. Did he compliment their costumes, or ask them what their favorite candy was, or ask if they went trick-or-treating? Nope. He told them that it was amazing that the press produced such beautiful children (i.e., talked smack about their parents), and asked them how the press treated them. (I wish there had been at least one fearless wise-ass kid to pipe up, “My mom sent me to bed without dinner once…”) Setting aside the way he has of always making everything about him, you have to wonder if he remembers being a kid (we know he was one once because there are photos), or if he outright killed his inner child at some point. Halloween is a great time for adults to let themselves be more kid-like. The president had this perfect opportunity to have a little fun, and he just couldn’t do it. That’s genuinely sad.
With everything that’s been going on this year, I have to admit that I haven’t been feeling Halloween as much as usual. I didn’t bring candy to the office (for which my waistline thanks me), and for the annual party I ended up putting together a costume out of bits of previous costumes. With some heavy eye makeup, a lot of hairspray, and a Billy Idol sneer, I created my Punk Fairy. I feel like it captures the zeitgeist pretty well this year. It wasn’t my first choice, though. Inspired by the appearance at Target of adult-size onesie pajamas (I don’t know why, and I don’t want to know) I had thought I might work up a “Toddler Trump” costume, but then I couldn’t find a plain, non-cartoon-franchise onesie, and when I tried to do the classic Trump pout, I discovered that I couldn’t do it. It kept ending up looking like duckface, and even I had to admit that I’m too pretty to impersonate Trump.
Oh well. There are two more Dirt Cups in the fridge, a bag of Halloween candy in the cabinet (in case we get trick-or-treaters at Freak Mountain), and Killer Clowns from Outer Space on the DVR, and my old ass is having a fun holiday, because what’s the point of life without fun?
So I’ve been undergoing that exercise in masochism otherwise known as trying to stay informed and engaged in the U.S. electoral process. In practice, all that means is that I’m letting myself get more anxious than necessary and falling behind in some more enjoyable and less stressful pursuits. Here’s me trying to get caught up.
As I hinted at in Cherry Chiffon, for my pre-savory “free week”, I decided to try out a couple of recipes from Junk Food. This is a book that defies description. It was published in 1980, and is a collection of photos, essays and artwork that characterize American food from the Great Depression through the 1970s. Bryan picked it up in the mid-1980s, and I read it a lot while we were living in Fandom House. When Bryan and I split up, I missed this book so much that he tracked down another copy for me. Now that we’re back together, we can’t bring ourselves to part with either copy, which is a shame for all of you out there, because the chances of this book getting reprinted are less than nil. Acquiring the rights for all the disparate items in the book would be (and was, back in the day) a publishing nightmare.
There are so many great pieces of writing, from “The 24-Hour Breakfast” by Robin Green (in which the author eats breakfast in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tijuana, and Disneyland in one 24-hour span and then, like, writes about it), to “A Mac with the Colonel” by Ira Simmons (in which the real Colonel Sanders critiques McDonald’s food), to “The Glutton’s Guide to Eating Out” by Paul Zimmerman (a sort of instructional treatise on all-you-can-eat buffets). There’s one piece, “Real and Delicious Junk Food Recipes You’ll Save and Enjoy” by Salvatore Boroso and John Farago, that we always found amusing, but we never quite had the nerve or motivation to try any of the recipes – until a couple of weeks ago.
Wanting to get the leftover cherries over and done with, I started with the Oreo Soup. My first task was to scrape the “stuf” out of a package of Double Stuf Oreos. I set the Pandora app to play my Galaxy News Radio channel, and while I listened to old jazz, early R&B, and American standards, I methodically separated the stuf from the chocolate wafers. It was a pleasantly meditative exercise, and I swear I felt thoroughly blissed out by the time I was done. I highly recommend this activity as a way to de-stress – but maybe not too often…
The stuf got whizzed in the Cuisinart, and rather than the “maelstrom” mentioned in the recipe, it seemed to quickly get flung out to the sides of the beaker and to just cling there out of reach of the blades. I wonder if that’s because Oreo filling is no longer made with lard, as it would have been when this recipe was created. Anyway. I added the sour cream, which blended with and thinned the stuf so quickly that I was sparing with the cherry juice. It didn’t seem to take much to get the mixture to the consistency of heavy cream, but the color was still very pale. Oh well.
The recipe just says to add the drained cherries to the soup; it doesn’t specify leaving them whole or processing them into the soup, so I decided to just go ahead and purée them. I think that was the right call.
I forgot to add the sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Oh well. Oreo Soup wasn’t bad, but the flavor and texture of the stuf really dominated, and again I wondered if the lard-free composition of modern stuf isn’t at least partly to blame here. I think in the future if I ever feel the need to separate a package of Oreos into its component parts, I’ll find a different excuse.
Now that I had a bowl of chocolate wafers, I could move on to Almond Joy Creme Pie. The cookies are the main ingredient of the simple crumb crust; the addition of melted butter and several minutes in a hot oven got that step out of the way.
There are a few different parts to the filling in Almond Joy Creme Pie. One is instant chocolate pudding made with chocolate milk (in our “of Jewish heritage” household, via Fox’s U-Bet) and chocolate liqueur. Another is Almond Joys with the almonds removed that are then puréed in the food processor and thinned with a non-specific quantity of chocolate liqueur. The last is Cool Whip (leftover from Cherry Chiffon in this case).
The filling ingredients get folded together and placed in the chocolate wafer crust. The almonds from the candy bars were supposed to be saved for garnish, but I didn’t think they looked very decorative so I ground them into the Almond Joy purée and used slivered almonds for garnish instead. The pie then sits in the fridge for several hours to firm up.
The recipe calls for an 8-inch pie plate, but I used a 9-inch plate, and a smaller one would have been too small, so I really lucked out there.
After a full day of chilling, the pie was firm enough to hold a slice, but just barely. I suspect that the culprit is the chocolate liqueur, which I ended up using rather liberally in the Almond Joy purée. Bryan didn’t think the alcohol was very noticeable, but I did. In fact, Bryan really liked this one, and over the four evenings it took us to consume the whole pie, he was always eager for dessert (which is seldom the case when we’re working through a Jell-O recipe).
With the first slice of Almond Joy Creme Pie, it hit me – this is stoner food. Now, I’m not going to lie and say I never inhaled, but my experience with marijuana is limited to a few attempts, years apart, when I was much younger, and I don’t think I’ve ever really been stoned. Nevertheless, I can imagine having the munchies and devouring this pie.
I was originally going to make this post all about marijuana and junk food, figuring that there had to be a clear connection between these things. I did some research, and found that, despite the stereotype of stoners inhaling Doritos or Taco Bell, when people get stoned and get the munchies, they’ll eat pretty much whatever is on hand – so if there’s junk food in the cupboard they’ll eat junk food, but if there’s more healthful food around, they’ll eat that. I found a number of different lists of “the most epic foods to eat when you’re baked”, and they were all quite different.
(No one is saying to eat Jell-O when you’re stoned, though I can image that might fun…)
Apparently food manufacturers are getting bolder about marketing to stoners. For example, the ads suggesting Taco Bell is good “late night” food are aimed at people who might be “partying”. Other ads featuring people acting like doofuses (like recent Burger King and Sonic campaigns) are thought to be depicting stoners. The expectation is that as more states legalize marijuana (as Massachusetts is, I hope, about to do) companies will be increasingly open about selling to this market. Already there’s a weed-themed sub chain, Cheba Hut, out west. However, Screaming Yellow Zonkers aside, there isn’t much junk food being produced specifically for stoners.
Still, given when the book Junk Food was produced, it would not surprise me if recipes like Oreo Soup and Almond Joy Creme Pie (as well as others like Milky Way Mousse and Crepes Jambon Drunken Mammy) were intended to be enjoyed by people under the influence. With a little over five weeks until the election, I understand the impulse.