Wow. With this post, we’re at number three on the New Joy of Jell-O countdown, a reboot of Strawberries Romanov. This is a fancy-sounding name for a recipe that’s pretty simple, except for some awkward timing.
Strawberries Romanov is another strawberry bavarian, along the lines of Fresh Strawberry Pie or Layered Bavarian. There’s a bavarian layer, using Cool Whip as the cream component, and a plain Jell-O-and-fruit layer. As you can see in the photos, I’m using the term “layer” rather loosely. And that’s where the awkward timing comes in.
At least this one had fresh fruit in it. I started off hulling and slicing about a pint of fresh strawberries (they were only available in one-pound packages, so I estimated, making sure to save some for breakfast), which I then macerated with two tablespoons of sugar. The berries exuded almost a quarter-cup of juice, to which I added cold water to make a cup of cold liquid.
Next, I had to make a double-batch (using a six-ounce package) of strawberry Jell-O. I measured out 3/4 cup liquid gelatin and added two tablespoons of brandy, one tablespoon of Cointreau, and half of the cold strawberry liquid. I cooled that over an ice water bath until it was slightly thickened, and then whisked in two cups of Cool Whip to make the bavarian layer. The directions say to fold in the Cool Whip, but because it’s almost impossible to deflate Cool Whip, whisking works better. I poured the mixture into a lubed mold and put it in the fridge to set.
Now, here’s where the timing got wonky, and I’ll admit right up front it was my fault. I got impatient, and you’d think I would have learned by now that patience is sometimes crucial to Jell-O-making. Instead of waiting a bit, I went ahead and prepared the Jell-O-and-fruit layer. I think I was assuming that it would take longer for the Jell-O to thicken, and unfortunately, when it did, the bavarian layer was still pretty soft. I went ahead and tried to put the Jell-O layer on top of the bavarian layer, but it sort of sank in, making something more like a tunnel cake.
I suppose it would have been nice if it had ended up looking like it was supposed to, but I kind of liked the tunnel effect, and of course it didn’t taste any different. (I tried a slice with an extra dollop of Cool Whip. I don’t recommend that. It was a bit much.) Looking at my notes from the last time I made this, I see that I was guessing then, as I do now, that the “Romanov” part of the name is just because there’s a little booze in it. The brandy and Cointreau flavors were subtle. Bryan couldn’t taste them at all, and I could only taste them if I ate the bavarian layer by itself; in a bite containing both bavarian and Jell-O/fruit, I couldn’t taste the alcohol at all. Overall, the flavors blended well together, and as always, using fresh fruit helped.
I won’t lie, it’s a relief to be so close to the end of the Project. At the same time, I’ve been at this for so long that not having to make a Jell-O recipe every weekend is going to be kind of a big change. Once I committed myself to the editorial calendar, I wound up structuring my weekends around making, tasting, and writing about each recipe. In a couple of weeks, I won’t have that structure anymore.
Meanwhile, New Year’s seems like as good a time as any to make a few changes. I plan on getting back on track with learning guitar, adopting a new training regimen at the gym, and I just started the process of letting my hair go gray, which is actually pretty involved after dying it for years. I think 2018 is going to be rough, and I’m just not feeling the cute, soft look of blonde waves anymore. It feels like a good time to be heading towards crone-hood.
feat. Bonus Jell-O: Watergate Salad
Well, this was another of those weeks that feel almost eternal. I don’t even remember last weekend, it seems like such a long time ago. Leftover pecans and Whipped Cream Mayonnaise were the only evidence that I could find that the weekend after Thanksgiving actually happened. Wait, what? Was Thanksgiving really only a week and a half ago?
Today I finally tossed that Whipped Cream Mayonnaise, and I was happy to have the pecans because I used them in another Jell-O recipe. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a quick look at today’s regularly scheduled Jell-O.
Number five on the New Joys of Jell-O countdown is our final recipe from Especially for Junior Cooks, Dream Parfait. There isn’t a lot to say about this one. It’s strawberry Jell-O layered in a tall dessert glass with prepared Dream Whip. That’s it. Make the Jell-O per the directions on the box, chill until it’s thick and jiggly but not quite set, and layer it in glasses with Dream Whip.
I started this one after getting back from the gym this afternoon. I made the Jell-O right away, before changing out of my workout clothes, and popped it in the fridge, figuring I’d come back later, make the Dream Whip, and finish chilling the gelatin over an ice water bath. I ended up leaving the Jell-O in the refrigerator for about two hours, and was surprised to find it nearly set (contrary to the directions on the box, which say it takes four hours). I’m not complaining, as that saved me a bit of bother rather late on a Sunday afternoon. My only other observation is that while this is quite easy to make, it’s a little less so from a food styling perspective. I wish I had put the Dream Whip in a piping bag, because it was difficult to just spoon it in to get neat-looking layers.
It tasted fine. It’s strawberry Jell-O and cream – of course it did.
I wasn’t planning on doing an extra recipe this weekend, but then on Friday, while I was reading all the news about Michael Flynn’s plea deal, I ran across a tweet that Kraft Foods had posted the night before:
Watergate Salad? On a day when a major event in this generation’s “Stupid Watergate” was unfolding? What kind of weird coincidence was that? So of course I had to make it.
But first I had to know – why was it called Watergate Salad? I figured there was a fair chance that it had been on the menu at the Watergate Hotel in the early 1970s (strange as it sounds, such things could be had at restaurants in the 1970s), but when I looked it up, I discovered that the “salad” had been developed in 1975, the year Jell-O pistachio pudding mix was introduced. (So “a tradition for many generations” might be a slight exaggeration, unless they’re referring to fruit flies.) Originally, it was dubbed Pistachio Pineapple Delight, until consumers started asking for the recipe as Watergate Salad. There are a few different rumors circulating about the origin of the name, but nothing that anyone can substantiate. My guess is that it started as sarcasm and quickly caught on. I can respect that.
Watergate Salad is clearly a close relative of ambrosia salad. It consists of five simple ingredients (Jell-O pistachio instant pudding mix, crushed pineapple, chopped pecans, miniature marshmallows, and Cool Whip) that just all get tumped together, mixed, and chilled. You don’t even have to make the pudding mix into pudding; it just goes in dry. (The recipe is on the pudding box if you want to try it.) It takes about five minutes to prepare, if you use pre-chopped nuts.
Bryan and I had it with brunch this morning, as suggested by one of the rumored origin stories. It tasted a lot like ambrosia salad, although it was a lot sweeter than my grandmother’s version. It turns out I was right about sour cream versus Cool Whip. Also, it could use more fruit. When I went to the gym a few hours later, I was thirsty all through my workout and had to keep taking hits from my water bottle. My trainer and I are switching to Sunday sessions, so it’s a good thing I only have a few more of these Jell-O recipes to go.
I could probably eat more of it (though at the moment I have a mild bellyache from the Dream Parfait), but Bryan really wants me to bring the leftovers to the Lab for the students to try. I’m getting too old for this…
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?
Well, it’s been another one of those weeks. It seems like most weeks are “one of those weeks” lately, so it was nice to get back to another “Especially for Junior Cooks” recipe.
But before I get into that, I’d like to direct the reader to Jellied Salade Niçoise, where just a couple of days ago I received a very nice comment from songwriter George Potor, who had written a song about Jellied Salade Niçoise and then happened upon my blog post. He included a link to his song, which seems to capture the essence of the dish. It made my weekend, really. He also mentioned a song about SpaghettiOs Cupcakes, which I found in this Bon Appetit post. Who knew weird processed food recipes could be such a deep mine for creativity? It occurred to me briefly that The New Joys of Jell-O could be made into an album, but that would be a multi-disk set that no one would listen to. Probably best not to go there.
Jiffy Cooler would surely be a very short song. It’s just a softer Jell-O (“red flavor”, prepared with a full cup of cold water) made into a bavarian with a pint of vanilla ice cream. When we went to the supermarket, the Friendly’s ice cream was on sale, so we bought a carton of vanilla, and also a carton of peppermint stick, which is my favorite and, unfortunately, only available for “the holiday season”. I gather that’s started already. (I don’t want to get too far off topic, but it’s only mid-October and I’m already seeing Christmas-themed ads on television – way too soon, people! It feels like Mallomar season has barely started.)
I chose strawberry for the red flavor, but raspberry would have been fine. One might even consider branching out from the red flavors and try this with peach, or Berry Blue, both of which go well with cream. (It’s just hitting me now that Jiffy Cooler made with Berry Blue would make a nice visual match for my Blue Heaven dish ware.) The “Jiffy” part is not random, or a misnomer. This is actually a pretty quick recipe to make, since you just make the Jell-O, melt the ice cream into it, and chill it for an hour or so. Mine was in the fridge for more like two-and-a-half hours while I was at the gym, and it still turned out to be a fairly soft jelly dish.
I was even looking forward to tasting it when I got back from my workout, not least because I decided to serve it with whipped cream and Oreo cookies on the side. (Shh! Don’t tell my trainer!) I definitely recommend that. Bryan and I both wound up dipping our cookies in the Jell-O and cream, and it all went very well together.
Maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but for once I feel like I’m ending the week on a high note. The Jell-O was good, we have Oreos to eat, I got to hear one of the recipes made into a song, and now that this one is done, I have thirteen recipes left in the Project. Thirteen! The end is in sight…
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.
Strawberry Supreme isn’t a particularly seasonal recipe. I probably scheduled it for this time of year because it’s just barely past fresh strawberry season here in New England – which doesn’t really matter, because Strawberry Supreme calls for frozen strawberries. Jell-O has no season.
This is one of those two-parters, with half of the gelatin in straight jelly form with fruit suspended in it, and the other half (the top half) a bavarian with vanilla ice cream. The recipe says to prepare two packages of strawberry Jell-O and then separate the liquid gelatin into two parts to make the two different components of the dish. I’ve been in this game long enough now to know that this can be tricky, timing-wise, and I decided to prepare each component separately, one Jell-O package at a time. It probably takes a little longer, but at least this way I didn’t suffer from premature gelling.
The first part, the jelly part, was prepared the usual way, dissolving a package of Jell-O in a cup of boiling water, adding a cup of cold water, adding ten ounces of frozen strawberries (the only kind that comes in ten-ounce packages at the Super Stop’n’Shop is some fancy-dancy organic brand, but the berries were actually decent) and then chilling until thickened over an ice-water bath. The gelatin was doled out into dessert glasses (the recipe specifies “sherbet glasses”, which I don’t have and am not sure what they are) and stowed in the fridge during the preparation of…
The bavarian part was a package of strawberry Jell-O dissolved in a cup of boiling water, with a half-cup of cold water added. The recipe says to then chill until slightly thickened and then add a cup of softened ice cream. I guess I didn’t read it carefully enough, because I just saw the part about adding ice cream, thought that it was stupid to add ice cream to already-chilled gelatin, and just added what I was estimating was a half-pint from a pint of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla bean with a small scoop to melt into the hot gelatin liquid. (After I finished making the dish, I ate the rest of the ice cream, straight out of the container like in my college days, and it seemed as though there was more than half the pint left in there…) The bavarian part also included one and a half tablespoons each of rum and brandy, and two tablespoons of Cointreau. Once the ice cream was pretty well melted down, I chilled this over the ice-water bath, beating it with a whisk in a desperate, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to achieve the “bubbly” consistency described in the recipe. Maybe I should have recruited the MixMaster Junior to help out, but I think if the bavarian part had achieved a greater volume, it wouldn’t have fit into the glasses with the jelly part.
Incidentally, while we already had brandy and Cointreau, there was no rum in our oddball assortment of liqueurs and liquor, so we had to make a special visit to our friendly neighborhood hipster liquor store. (Due to popular demand, they now stock “pong balls” and red Solo cups.) I now have nearly a quart of rum. And a lot of mint growing wild in the yard. Anyone got a good mojito recipe?
In the end, Strawberry Supreme was not very different from the other strawberry bavarians I’ve made so far in the Project. Bryan described it as “relatively inoffensive”, and after taking the time and expense to get the rum, the booze was barely detectable – a hint of citrus flavor, a slight burn on the tongue. The absolute best thing about Strawberry Supreme, honestly, was that during this long weekend of “beach weather” it felt good to hold and eat something cold.
Part of the reason I’m posting on Monday instead of Sunday is that I was thinking I’d say something about the 4th of July, since I’ve been having Thoughts. On the other hand, I’m pretty burnt out on politics, and reluctant to lecture anybody. If you’ve been following NJoJ for a while, you know how I feel about the current regime. I’ll just say, if you’re wondering how I feel about my country these days, “It’s complicated”.
I do have a couple of links to share. One concerns that fellow Frederick Douglass, who I hear is being recognized more and more, and I guess that’s why his July 5, 1852 speech in Rochester, New York has gone viral. Seriously, though, while we celebrate our independence tomorrow, I think we should give a thought to all the people who didn’t benefit from it 241 years ago, and the people who are still struggling for a place at the table for a fair share of freedom’s rewards.
The other link is for Stephen Colbert’s #AmericanGreatness hashtag on Twitter. (Even better, if you use Twitter just check out the @StephenAtHome feed, as he seems to be filtering out trolls.) People from all over the country have been posting an amazing and inspiring variety of photos of the things that make the U.S. truly great, from natural beauty to thriving cities to more intimate shots of family moments. Politics is transitory; these are the things that will endure. I’m so grateful to Colbert for doing this. It’s something we really need right now.
So, I’ve been trying to take advantage of a long holiday weekend that has turned out to be far too short. On Saturday I finally got an electric guitar, a Squier (budget-range Fender) stratocaster, and a cool little practice amplifier that has a USB port (for digital recording, hopefully) and a bunch of built-in effects to keep me happily distorted until I’m ready to start shopping for pedals. I have a strap and some lesson books on order, so I’m on my way, though I tend to think that probably I’ll end up being to the guitar what Inspector Clouseau was to the violin. But we’ll see.
Meanwhile, our cat Ida has been slowly recovering from what appears to have been some sort of mental breakdown a few weeks ago, during which she decided that she hated our other cat, Sam (her offspring), and took up residence on top of the kitchen cabinets. Feeding her up there was fine, but she perceived coming down to use the litter box as a journey fraught with peril, and this was not a situation that we could allow to continue. On Friday evening we got her down and set up in the bedroom, where she seems to be gradually getting back to normal, but we still don’t know what happened. Even the vet seems mystified so far.
Just to add to the fun (and freak out the cats some more), a little while ago we had a plumber here trying to deal with our weird European tankless furnace/water-heater “combi” unit because the hot water suddenly cut out yesterday. The plumbing issues always seem to crop up on long holiday weekends, so that they’ll be as expensive as possible. $300 so far, and we still have no hot water.
So I’ve been a bit less focused on the Jell-O this week, but I did make a Strawberry Bavarian Pie for you.
To be honest, this wasn’t very interesting, just another Cool Whip bavarian, with frozen strawberries mixed in. The recipe calls for a nine-inch pie shell, but again I decided to go with a chocolate crumb crust because that makes this dessert a little more of a treat. As you can see, I attempted to use leftover Cool Whip to garnish the pie, and I’m way off my dollop game.
It occurs to me that despite everything else I had going on this weekend, I was still able to prepare this dessert, so in a way it was fulfilling the function for which it was intended. On some level, I was emulating the housewives for whom these recipes were created, women who were busy taking care of their families and felt that a nice dessert was part of a good family dinner (anyone else remember back in the day when it was usual and expected that families would eat dinner together?) but didn’t necessarily have time for something fancier. Actually, Strawberry Bavarian Pie would have been kind of a special dessert after supper when I was a kid.
Bryan and I tasted this after the plumber left, and for us it wasn’t so special. I told Bryan about how the recipe calls for an addition of a tablespoon of sugar to the gelatin, which I think might have been meant to balance out tartness in the strawberries. We both thought it was odd, given how sweet Cool Whip is, but then it occurred to us that Cool Whip might not have been quite as sweet back in the day. Looking at the history of high fructose corn syrup, it’s likely that these Jell-O and Cool Whip “no-bake pies” were developed before HFCS was widely adopted as a sweetener in mass-produced food products. (That might help explain why, much as kids my age were junk-food junkies back in the 1970s, few of us were obese.) We mulled over how it might be possible to find out what the ingredients in Cool Whip would have been in 1974, thinking that perhaps it would be possible to find vintage tubs on eBay or something like that. I didn’t find any vintage tubs, but I did fall down a rabbit hole of vintage Cool Whip commercials going back to 1966, when Cool Whip first hit the market, including the “Tucker Inn” series, which any child of the 1970s will remember. This one is especially relevant: