Tag Archives: savory

Bonus Video: Molded Potato Salad – Behind the Jell-O

I’ve been having so much fun fooling around with iMovie, I decided to make you guys a bonus video!


Virgin Recipe: Molded Potato Salad


If only all the Jell-O molds could turn out as well as this one…

Here we arrive at another exciting savory Jell-O recipe. No mystery about this one – it’s really just a potato salad given shape and hold by a packet of Jell-O.

I have surprisingly few grumbles about this one. The chief grumble is the stupid imprecision with which American recipes were, and are, written. Molded Potato Salad calls for four cups of cooked and diced potatoes, which sounds straightforward until you’re about to peel and cook the potatoes, and you realize that you don’t have a good idea of how many whole potatoes will make four cups diced. I had to guess, and, okay, five potatoes worked out to be about the right amount, but I kept thinking about how much simpler it would have been if I had just had to, say, measure out 500 grams of potatoes on our kitchen scale; then I wouldn’t have had to worry, right up until I was filling up the ring mold, whether I had cooked enough potatoes.


Selfie in my new vintage blouse. Bryan said I looked like I’d just stepped out of McCall’s.

Molded Potato Salad is essentially a bavarian made with mayonnaise instead of cream. That sounds pretty nasty, but it turned out to be not so bad. It unmolded beautifully, and even in the eating it wasn’t awful. Bryan would argue with this (he ate some, picking the potato and bacon bits out of the Jell-O/mayonnaise base) but the main problem was a lack of seasoning, which apart from the bacon came mainly in the form of a packet of Good Seasons Italian dressing powder whisked together with a few tablespoons of vinegar. Chopped celery and onion, maybe some chopped bell pepper, garlic salt and fresh-ground pepper would have been a huge improvement. Even so, this was far from the worst Jell-O recipe I’ve done so far, in either the original project or the reboot. With unflavored gelatin, some crunchy fresh veggies, and decent seasoning, this would be at least as good as a standard potato salad.

But really, the main point of this one, and the reason for the emphasis on not being afraid to suck, was to continue learning to make videos – in front of the camera, behind the camera, and the editing process on the computer. Also, I had the idea of trying out some vintage clothes. Shopping is another thing I’m not very good at, but I had a go in the vintage section at the Garment District, and had a little success. If nothing else, I realized that the trend of fuller sleeves in the 1970s means that I can be reasonably sure vintage blouses will fit over my muscular arms.

I’m not especially proud of the way the video turned out, but I’m posting it anyway. For me, at least, it’s been instructional. Some problems (the technical ones) can be solved by throwing a few ducats at them. Getting more comfortable in front of the camera is just going to take practice. That’s the thing about not being afraid to suck. If you persevere in spite of sucking, eventually you’ll find that you don’t suck anymore. So here’s hoping….

Bryan and I ate some of this for lunch, but certainly more than half went down the garbage disposal. A donation has been made to Action Against Hunger to atone for this waste of food.

Recipe Repost: A Light Jell-O Supper

Originally posted January 16, 2010

Note: Almost exactly five years later, I’m reposting this about a week after my birthday. I didn’t have any Jell-O for my birthday this year, which doesn’t exactly compensate for being five years older, but it’s something.

a table sparsely laid out with Spanish Tuna Salad, bread, and Key Lime Pie

A Light Jell-O Supper at Freak Mountain (anadama bread homemade by Bryan)

I guess I’m just not as smart as I sometimes think I am. You’d think I would have learned my lesson with the Jell-O brunch, but with this confluence of recipes on the schedule, I couldn’t resist doing another “theme” post. I must say, though, that unless I pick up the pace I’m going to have to Tom Sawyer a bunch of unwitting friends and acquaintances into attending a Jell-O buffet – and nobody wants that…

Spanish Tuna Salad

Don’t ask me what makes this salad “Spanish,” because I honestly don’t know. As I work through The New Joys of Jell-O, I often have the impression that recipes were named (and/or developed) using a process akin to Mad Libs.

tuna and vegetables suspended in lemon Jell-O

“Spanish” Tuna Salad

Spanish Tuna Salad is your basic “things suspended in Jell-O,” savory style – tuna, diced tomato, chopped celery and scallion, and, in theory, small strips of cucumber. However, the cucumber Bryan selected from the bin at the supermarket turned out to be a zucchini, so I just went with that. I suspect it could only have improved the dish. The chopped vegetables (which I “eyeballed” rather than measured, taking care only to not skimp) and chunks of white albacore tuna were added to a thickened lemon Jell-O that had been seasoned with pepper and vinegar. This was put into individual gelatin molds and left in the fridge to chill overnight. Probably the best thing I can say about Spanish Tuna Salad is that it gave Bryan a night off from cooking. The next best thing I can say is that it wasn’t as bad as the Salmon Dill Mousse (although Bryan disagreed with me on this). It looked like some sort of kooky diet dish from a recipe out of a 1970s-vintage issue of Ladies Home Journal, and as has been the problem with the savory Jell-Os so far, the sweetness of the Jell-O was not sufficiently cut by the seasonings and other ingredients. I found the flavor too complicated, the sweet lemon gelatin bumping rudely against the tuna and the celery. The texture wasn’t as creepy as that of the Salmon Dill Mousse, but it still wasn’t remotely pleasant to eat. My overall impression was that this was the sort of thing a young housewife of forty years ago would have made if she didn’t know any better, having married young and gone directly from living with her parents to living with her husband. Once I’d formed this impression, I felt like a bit of a chump.

Key Lime Pie

photo of Key Lime Pie from The New Joys of Jell-O

Key Lime Pie, circa 1974

First, a disclaimer: Yes, I know what key lime pie is, and I know that this isn’t really it. Again, it was those crazy GF R&D drones who named the recipes, not me. When I was making up my schedule, I tried to balance the weird, scary, and outright offensive-sounding recipes with the kinder, gentler ones, hence the pairing of Spanish Tuna Salad with Key Lime Pie. Also, I like lime, so I decided to schedule that one for my birthday.  We ended up eating it the day after – close enough. Key Lime Pie sounded like it would be a bit of all right, especially since the recipe calls for two teaspoons of lime zest and a half-cup of lime juice. I juiced the limes I used for zesting, so this had a bracing quantity of fresh, genuine flavoring. The zest and juice, plus a teaspoon of aromatic bitters (don’t ask) were added to lime Jell-O, and the hot liquid was stirred gradually into a well-beaten egg yolk. (I managed not to cook the egg this time – hooray!) This was chilled over an ice water bath until it was slightly thick, and then a can of sweetened condensed milk was stirred into it. Finally, a beaten egg white was folded into the mixture and the lot was poured into a pre-baked pie shell (again, a store-bought crust from the freezer case) and popped into the fridge to chill and firm up.

my Key Lime Pie

“Key Lime” Pie a la Freak Mountain

When I first tasted it, it seemed to me that the real and fake lime flavors clashed a bit on the palate, but I quickly got used to that. Otherwise, it wasn’t bad at all. The real juice and zest gave the pie a nice dash of acidity, and the sweetened condensed milk gave it firmness without the peculiar artificial flavors of Cool Whip or Dream Whip. The recipe recommended garnishing the pie with Dream Whip, and while I did kind of regret presenting a plain pie in the photograph here, it was a relief to eat a Jell-O dessert without Dream Whip in it. While it wasn’t exactly the sort of Key Lime Pie you would expect to get in a good restaurant in Florida, it was a reasonable consolation after eating the Spanish Tuna Salad.

Bryan took seconds.

Recipe Repost: Jellied Avocado Ring

Originally posted January 31, 2010

Nothing seems to be going my way lately. I really thought I was going to be able to get close to caught up over the last week and a half or so – and then last weekend I started to come down with gastroenteritis. Kind of ironic when you consider that, next to chicken soup, Jell-O is the ultimate American sick-room food, but over the past week I haven’t wanted to think about Jell-O, let alone eat it. I think as you read this blog entry, you’ll understand why it took me so long to write and post it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I embarked upon Jellied Avocado Ring. For one thing, I’m a little ambivalent about avocados. I find them confusing, fruit that tastes like a vegetable. I don’t eat them very often, and when I do it’s usually in the form of guacamole, with nachos. I just didn’t have a good sense of how well they would go with lime Jell-O, so I tried to be optimistic, and decided that this recipe could turn out to be okay.

So what did I do? I started myself off on the wrong foot by letting the avocados get a little overripe. (Like I said, I don’t know avocados very well…) Still, I soldiered on, buoyed by the idea that no matter how this turned out, I was going to plant the avocado pits and have four new friends like in the California Avocado Advisory Board ads I used to see in Seventeen magazine in the early 1980s. I mashed up the avocados as well as I could, and added them and a quarter-cup of mayonnaise to a quadruple batch of lime Jell-O that was salted and thickened. I started stirring:

blending of Jell-O with avocado looks weird

Is it supposed to look like this?

This was a little discouraging. For some *ahem* unknown reason I was reminded of some drunken blow-outs kick-ass parties thrown by a certain C– W– that I had attended during my misspent youth. I kept stirring, sure it would get better. It didn’t:

the mixture now has the texture and appearance of vomit

Oh dear….

Not only was the avocado just a little too chunky for this to be visually appealing, but also the mayonnaise would not be fully incorporated into the mixture and stubbornly remained in worrying little lumps. It began to dawn on me that this was going to be one of the more interesting Jell-Os to write about, and into the bundt pan it went.

the completed mold, still looks like vomit

Jellied Avocado Ring

Finally I had a Jell-O mold big enough for the bundt pan, and it had to be this one. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll go ahead and say it – this came out looking like a green vomit mold. The real question was, would it taste like a green vomit mold?

I’m not sure how to describe the flavor. As I was eating it, it didn’t seem all that unpleasant, and yet I had to force myself to finish it. The lime Jell-O wasn’t too sweet. The avocado flavor wasn’t particularly objectionable, but the mayonnaise lumps were. As usual, none of it blended together at all well. The texture was a little creepy, maybe. It was difficult to imagine what place it could have in a meal. As Bryan put it, “This isn’t a 2 or a 3 [“nasties”, my old recipe rating system, not used in the reboot], this is a WTF.”

I’ll tell you what this reminded me of. Five years ago, I suffered an episode of idiopathic acute angle-closure glaucoma in my left eye. The condition is rare to begin with, and I didn’t have any of the common risk factors for it, so when it proved difficult to bring down the pressure in my eye, I was subjected to a battery of tests. One of them, ultrasound biomicroscopy, involved placing a sort of open-bottom cup on my eye (by fixing the lip of the cup under my eyelids,) filling the cup with saline solution, and running a vibrating ultrasound probe in the saline. (This generated some interesting pictures of the inside of my eyeball.) While I was going through it, it didn’t seem so terrible. I managed not to freak out, managed to stay calm even. My memories of it are not horrible. However, I never want to go through it again.

That’s sort of how I feel about Jellied Avocado Ring.

Despite my dictum against waste, I could not bring myself to eat any more of it. Luckily, I’ve come up with a rationalization for this. In my yoga classes, we’re told by the instructors that on the principle of ahimsa (nonviolence) we shouldn’t force ourselves to do poses that are uncomfortable or painful, that do us harm. I have decided that to force Bryan and myself to eat the nastier Jell-O dishes would be to cause us both to violate the principle of ahimsa – and, frankly, neither of our karmas can afford to take those hits.