Tag Archives: strawberry Jell-O

Recipe Reboot: Strawberry Yogurt Whip

two dishes of indeterminate Jell-O variant with dollops of Cool Whip on top

Pink stuff with Cool Whip dollops, circa 2009

I call this a “recipe reboot”, but I still have my notes from when I made this the first time around, for posting on October 5, 2009. In fact, it was the first recipe where I made notes as I prepared and tasted it. I must have decided to reboot it because I don’t have photos – or, rather, I have some photos of something pink that might have been Strawberry Yogurt Whip, with a time-stamp from around the right date, but whatever the pink stuff is, it doesn’t look very “whipped”, so I can’t be sure. Anyway, Strawberry Yogurt Whip is one of those “Nice Easy Things to Do with Jell-O”, so reprising it now is no great hardship.

The recipe lists four ingredients, two of which are water, so this is basically Jell-O, slightly thickened, whipped together with yogurt and chilled until firm. Sounds simple enough, but another reason that I decided to reboot this is because I was not entirely happy with the result using strawberry yogurt as specified in the recipe. Back in 2009, I used Stoneyfield Farms lowfat fruit-on-the-bottom, and regretted using the lowfat version. Also, individual-serving yogurt cups were downsized from eight ounces to six ounces some time ago, so I had to buy two servings, mix them together, and measure out a cup. Boo hoo.

three clear glass teacups with bright pink, frothy Jell-O in them

Strawberry Yogurt Whip, circa 1974

Also, I found myself wondering about yogurt now versus yogurt in 1974. As I recall, in the early 1970s, yogurt was still fairly exotic to the middle-American palate. It was health food, or food for “nut’n’berry freaks”. The only time I ever had yogurt back then was when I was playing at the home of my friend who lived next door. Her mother was kind of a hippie, and a single mom when that sort of thing was much less common than it is today. They had furniture made out of big electrical wire spools (that I envied then, and still do), a lot of artsy-crafty things to do, and for snacks, crunchy-granola things like yogurt. My family were kind of the opposite of hippies; we had Ethan Allen furniture, and no yogurt.

Having googled it just now, I see that there’s a little more to the history of yogurt in the U.S. than my recollections suggest. I was thinking that maybe yogurt that was available to users of The New Joys of Jell-O in 1974 would be more “pure” than a lot of yogurts today that are full of sugar, thickeners, and preservatives. Not so, according to this New Yorker article from 2013 about the recent Greek yogurt trend. Manufacturers were adding thickeners and sweeteners to yogurt during the 1950s and 1960s, even as it was being marketed as a health food. However, it took Dannon’s ad campaign in the 1970s touting yogurt’s longevity-granting health benefits to push it into the mainstream.

So yogurt in 1974 was probably a lot like yogurt that’s available now, apart from the package size. Even so, I decided to use plain Fage full-fat Greek yogurt, which turned out to be a good call. The tartness of the plain yogurt balances perfectly with the sweetness of the Jell-O, giving Strawberry Yogurt Whip an almost-real strawberry flavor. I’m not too worried about the fat in the yogurt; I figure it’s got to be better for me than thickeners and extra sugar, and has a better flavor, too. My guess is that Strawberry Yogurt Whip is more of a “health food” than a lot of yogurts on the market today.

three glasses of whipped Jell-O garnished with strawberry slices

Strawberry Yogurt Whip á la Freak Mountain

This one also has very nice visual appeal (a pleasant pink color, as opposed to the neon pink of the photo from the book) and, to my mind, an interesting texture. I’ve liked the whipped gelatins from the first one I did, although Bryan disagrees with me there. He thinks they’re weird. I think when you’re making over a hundred Jell-O recipes, the more variation you have, the better. I will admit that this can be weird, texture-wise, if you don’t put them in the dessert glasses quickly enough. I think you can kind of see in the photo how the foamy part becomes a “head” on top of some more placid Jell-O, especially in the kitty-kat glass. I ate one of those, and found myself a little creeped out by the transition from foamy to smooth Jell-O.

Still, if you have kids and you’re trying to get more calcium-rich foods into them, this might not be a bad way to do it. Strawberry Yogurt Whip is a bit of all right.


me, Sonya, and Maura on bass; behind Sonya, awesome drummer Julie

First – and last – performance by the Silver Daisies. April 9, 2017 (ONCE, Somerville, MA; photo by Wei Yu)

Incidentally, if you noticed there was no post last week and expected a nasty Jell-O this week, I’m sorry to disappoint, but I took the weekend off Jell-O’ing to do a “rock camp”. I mentioned it a few posts ago, and I’m happy to report that I did not get demoted to cowbell, although I was given a standard-tuned electric guitar and expected to play proper chords. The whole thing turned out to be a mixed bag for me, but I’m glad I did it – and also glad it’s over and done with, though I really enjoyed jamming with the Silver Daisies and am wondering how I can get more of that into my life.

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: Strawberry Chiffon

two-layer gelatin mold on serving platter

Strawberry Chiffon (I swear, someday I’m going to get the hang of centering a jelly mold on a plate…)

Well, this is the last Jell-O before the election, so I’m glad that it’s a fairly nice one.

two packages strawberry Jell-O, fresh strawberries, Cool Whip

Strawberry Chiffon ingredients

As shown in the book, Strawberry Chiffon is just a variant on Cherry Chiffon, with strawberry Jell-O and strawberries instead of cherry Jell-O and cherries.

The recipe calls for fresh strawberries, and it turns out that even with all the fruit that comes to us year-round from California and Florida, it’s still a little tricky to find fresh strawberries in the supermarket in November. Shelf space in the produce section needs to be given over to things like apples and pumpkins, and the icky candied fruit that people put in fruitcakes. Luckily, there were some containers of pre-hulled strawberries in the prepared-fruit section, so I grabbed a couple of those. One of them worked out to be about a cup and a half of strawberry slices, a half-cup more than the recipe says, so that was perfect. (We had the other container of berries with breakfast this morning.)

The only other interesting aspect to preparing this was that, since the recipe specifies it, I decided to give another chance to the quick-set method of adding ice to the hot liquid gelatin. I was a little surprised to find that this time it actually worked. I suspect it might have something to do with the weather; now that fall is well and truly upon us, it’s getting cooler in the house, giving those ice cubes a better chance to chill the gelatin before they melt.

I didn’t want to use my Tupperware ring mold for this, because I figured it would end up looking too much like Cherry Chiffon, and where’s the fun in that? I went with the brain mold instead, partly because it’s the right volume for the recipe, and partly in honor of Chris Hardwick, host of “Talking Dead”* (and the panel show “@midnight”, and creator of the Nerdist empire), whose comedy show we went to see in Boston on Friday. I got the tickets during the pre-sale months ago, and I picked two front-row seats just because I could. The seating on the floor was cabaret-style, tiny round tables with four chairs to a table, the chairs facing to the sides rather than facing the stage. Bryan took the seat nearer the stage (he said he thought it would be hard for me to see over the lip of the stage, a likely story) which meant he was sitting right up against it.

As Chris got into his set, he began interacting with the audience. He came over to our side of the stage and remarked that we were practically sitting under it, and those had to be either the worst seats in the house, or the best. Then he knelt down, put a firm hand on Bryan’s shoulder, and asked Bryan what he did for a living. Bryan froze. It was like the scene in “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie goes to see Santa, except that instead of squeaking out “a… a football…” Bryan squeaked out “production editor”. Chris asked him what that was, and Bryan just couldn’t answer (eventually he managed “I make sure books come out good”), at which point Chris started giving him a hard time about being startled by this guy we’ve seen on the TV suddenly asking him questions. To be honest, Chris did look a little menacing – but it was hilarious. I suppose I should have jumped in and said something (I was thinking, “Dude, just ask me something, it’ll go quicker”) but I couldn’t stop laughing. This seems to be a pattern we’re developing, where Bryan falls into a hole, and rather than help him out of it I just stand by watching and laughing. I’m a bad wife.

Anyway, it was a fun evening with a lot of much needed laughter – and here I should also give a shout out to Chris’s friend, fellow comedian Mike Firman, who opened for him and closed with him and is also very funny, if not particularly menacing – so I guess I owe Chris Hardwick a tribute Jell-O, at least.

closeup of brain-shaped Jell-O mold

Strawberry Chiffon brain, up close

So Strawberry Chiffon turned out to be expectedly pleasant. We both wished that the strawberries were better, but in a way it was good that they weren’t super-sweet fresh and ripe, because that made the dish overall less sweet. I definitely recommend going with more than a cup of the fruit.

I continue to be intrigued by the bavarian part. I think that if I can make time to branch out more into off-book experimentation I’d like to see where I can go with it.

* I’ve been watching “The Walking Dead” since the beginning. I’m not the sort of person you’d expect to be making lots of Jell-O, am I?

Halloween Special: A Spectacular Jell-O Fail

I wasn’t planning to do a Halloween Jell-O project, but a week before the holiday, my friend K– tagged me in a Facebook post with a link to a video about making Jell-O “worms in dirt”:

It looked  feasible, and like something that wouldn’t take a tremendous amount of time (the video is deceptively short) so I decided to attempt it over the weekend.

I got off to a bad start, believe it or not, trying to find drinking straws. Bryan and I went to Target first, because we had some other shopping to do and figured we could do it most efficiently there. I already had the Jell-O, unflavored gelatin, cream, and food coloring, so I only needed to get straws and Oreos for this recipe. Oreos were not a problem, but our local Target doesn’t appear to carry drinking straws. Well, no big deal, the Star Market is on the way home from Target, so we stopped there. We found straws, but not the standard straws you’d use to drink a root beer float or an egg cream. No, the only straws at the Star were meant for frozen drinks at parties, brightly colored and narrow. We couldn’t chase all over town for straws because at some point we had a Halloween party to get ready for, so we got a few boxes of the least narrow straws they had and returned to Freak Mountain.

two glasses with bundles of straws, next to a package or Oreos

Arranging straws, keeping my eyes on the prize…

Making the gelatin that was to become worms was easy, just a double batch of strawberry Jell-O with a packet of Knox unflavored gelatin, mixed with 3/4 cup heavy cream tinted with 15 drops of green food coloring. One thing I will say, the color was perfect – very wormlike.

The problem with this recipe is the mechanics of it. I started out splitting 100 straws between two drinking glasses, which looked like a reasonable setup. I bundled up the straws with twist ties, and started pouring the still-liquid gelatin into the first bundle. Perhaps not surprisingly to someone more science-minded than I am, the gelatin ran right out of the bottoms of the straws and began filling up the glass. As the gelatin got close to the top of the glass, I realized that the gelatin would overflow the glass well before the straws got anywhere near full.

bundle of straws in pitcher, coated with viscous gelatin

Jell-O thickening, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s filling the straws.

I searched my kitchen for a taller vessel, and settled on an aluminum retro-style pitcher. It’s about as tall as the straws, but much wider than all 100 straws bundled together. At least the gelatin wouldn’t overflow it.

Now I had a new problem – the Jell-O was starting to set. By the time I was ready to pour it over the bundle of straws in the pitcher, it was becoming viscous and rather than flowing into the straws it was sliding over the top and down the sides of the bundle. I found myself patting thick gelatin into the tops of the straws, hoping it would flow down into them and stay there. I even scooped up handfuls of gelatin from the pitcher to pat into the tops of the straws. It was not pleasant. Finally, I decided I’d done all I could and put the pitcher in the fridge.

If, at that point, I thought the worst was over, I was wrong.

More than 24 hours later, I removed the pitcher from the refrigerator. The Jell-O had set up very firm, as it was supposed to. So firm that I couldn’t pull the straws out of the pool of gelatin that was surrounding them. I used a knife, and then a spoon, to remove as much of that gelatin as I could, throwing at least a regular-batch quantity of gelatin into the kitchen sink. After a while, I’d cleared out enough that I could start pulling out straws.

Another problem was that the jelly-coated straws were slippery and hard to grip. As I started extruding jelly from the straws, I found that it was difficult and frustrating to do it with just my hands. I hit upon the solution of holding the tops of the straws in my teeth, which worked pretty well except for a bit of drooling. It took me about 45 minutes to extrude the Jell-O that was in the straws, and this is what I ended up with:

small quantity of Jell-O worms in a glass bowl

This is maybe a half-cup of “worms”.

Let’s review. I made 3 3/4 cups of Jell-O, and the photo above shows the quantity of not-very-wormlike worms I got out of it, maybe a half-cup altogether. The level of Jell-O in the straws was lower than the level of the Jell-O surrounding the straws in the pitcher. The short worms I got out of the straws weren’t even smooth and nice like the ones in the video. That half-cup of set Jell-O looked more like ground beef than worms.

Your Humble Narrator in VaultTec jumpsuit

This year’s costume – Fallout, natch.

I’m guessing that I needed a container as tall as the straws and just wide enough to hold all 100 of them in a tight bundle. Even then, I think the volume of that arrangement would have been less than the volume of Jell-O I’d prepared. Wider straws would almost certainly have been better. I should have spent more time finding better straws, calculated the volume I’d need a container to be, and then gone looking for a container with just the proper proportions to get this to come out right. Really. Who has time for that?

I decided that this was perhaps the stupidest Jell-O project I’ve done so far, giving even Frosted Fresh Grapes a run for its money. When I was making it, it occurred to me that this is a recipe that has “stay-at-home mom” written all over it, because who else would take the time to fool around one-by-one with 100+ drinking straws. I now suspect that this recipe is a hoax put out on the internet to make stay-at-home moms feel inadequate. Somebody should be ashamed of themselves.

But, as Bryan pointed out, whatever happened we still had that package of Oreos…

Happy Halloween!

 

 

Memory Lane: Honey Pecan Bavarian

It seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time on Memory Lane lately. It might be a function of the Big Five-Oh looming in the not-too-distant future, or it may be because I’m working my way through A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression (which is an interesting, if not exactly uplifting, read), or it may be because I’ve been spending so much time listening to my Galaxy News Radio channel and thinking about the evolution of American popular music, but I feel like I’m looking back a lot – not wistfully, but trying to get a better sense of my place on the continuum. For a long time I’ve had this notion that life is a puzzle that makes more sense as you find and slot in the pieces, and the past is a good place to go looking for puzzle pieces.

Last Sunday morning I found this tweet in my timeline:

Steve Martin retweets a message asserting that he's "underrated"

Ah, youth…

The person Steve Martin was retweeting has apparently just discovered Martin’s old standup material, which is great (oh, to be able to hear “King Tut” for the first time again!), but it looks like he jumped to the conclusion that because it’s new to him, it must have been forgotten by everyone else. Mentioning Martin in his tweet really put the icing on this faux pas. Maybe he thought he was doing him a favor.

Jay seems to lack a sense of himself in relation to history. Perhaps, like a lot of young people today, he thinks that the past is irrelevant to him because things have changed so much, so fast. It didn’t occur to him that there’s a generation or two before him who remember Steve Martin’s earlier work and consider it hugely influential, even (as many replies to his tweet noted) legendary – and who may be among Martin’s 7.7 million Twitter followers. In this internet age, it would have been easy enough to discover the foundation of Martin’s enduring success (which certainly doesn’t indicate an “underrated” early career), but Jay’s reference point was himself, and he mistakenly thought that was sufficient.

But enough of this “get off of my lawn” stuff…

the real Honey Pecan Bavarian, looks kind of like a strawberry-flavored sponge

Honey Pecan Bavarian, back in the day…

Where was I? Oh, yes, Honey Pecan Bavarian. I don’t remember this one at all. In fact, the photo I uploaded initially turned out to be not Honey Pecan Bavarian, which I only realized after reading the recipe for reference.

my handwritten notes on making Honey Pecan Bavarian

Notes, early April 2010

Going by my notes, I was psyched to make this one because it contains “REAL CREAM”, which I can imagine would have seemed like a huge relief after recipes involving Cool Whip, Dream Whip, and mayonnaise. The Jell-O is strawberry flavor, which apparently goes well with honey, although in hindsight I am dubious. I indicated that the honey flavor “is pretty strong”, so I guess you have to like honey if you’re going to make this one.

A tip for anyone who decides to try to make this – the recipe says to “stir carefully” when adding the cream to the thickened gelatin; I found that beating the cream into the gelatin worked better. However, careful stirring is probably the way to go with the pecans. Pecans? Yes, though I remarked that “nuts still don’t belong in Jell-O”.

The pieces remained intact when I served them, which is always a good feature in a Jell-O mold. Bryan didn’t like the smell, and I concurred, noting that “it does smell a little like ass”. He couldn’t finish his portion, and couldn’t explain why (which may not mean that much, really), but I didn’t think it was that bad.

Still, I’m just as glad I didn’t have to make this again. I may have forgotten it, but at least I wasn’t doomed to repeat it.

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.

strawberry Jell-O with peach and banana slices in two stemless wine glasses

Peach-Banana Dessert in kittykat glasses. The left kittykat is “Frisky”, the right kittykat is “Lovey”.

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…

Virgin Recipe: Fresh Strawberry Pie

With this one, I felt like I was finally doing something right – until I learned that today is National Ice Cream Day.

Oh well.

Fresh Strawberry Pie is the sort of no-bake dessert that uplifted the spirits of 1970s moms. Central air conditioning was less common in homes then than it is now, so summertime cuisine was heavy on things we think of as picnic or cookout food – salads instead of cooked vegetables or hot pasta dishes, potato chips instead of mashed or French fried potatoes, meats cooked outside on the grill (by Dad, usually), and of course no-bake desserts. Anything to avoid heating up the kitchen, which I understand completely because Freak Mountain has no air conditioning of any sort.

pie plate with chocolate crumb crust

With a Strawberry Pie, a chocolate crumb crust is only logical

The crust can be either a regular pie shell or a crumb crust, and when temperatures are in the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celcius) as they’ve been this weekend, bashing up some cookies and mixing them with melted butter is a damn good option. I was going to make a chocolate crumb crust using Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers and Nilla Wafers per Mother Wonderful’s Cheesecake and Other Goodies (my go-to cheesecake recipe book for the last 25 years) but while we were in the supermarket I gave in to the temptation to try a crust made with Oreos instead, because that seemed like it would be more true to the Project somehow. It turned out really well. The main problem was that I only needed two thirds of the package of Oreos for the crust, leaving a third of a package of Oreos for, well, lunch. Okay, I didn’t eat all of them, and I ate them with the leftover strawberries, so that cancels out some of the calories, right?

pie plate with chocolate crumb crust and strawberry bavarian layer

Strawberry bavarian, failing to mound

Heat like we’ve been having this weekend seemed like it might make the Jell-O part a little trickier. The pie filling goes in two parts, a Cool Whip bavarian made with half of the Jell-O that goes on top of the crust, and then the remainder of the Jell-O combined with fresh strawberries which goes into the middle of the pie. I used the ice water bath technique to thicken the bavarian part (another reason this recipe is nice to do in hot weather) but it wouldn’t thicken up to the “mounding” stage for some reason. I thought maybe it had to do with the heat, since the ice was melting quickly in the water. Should I have used more ice? Salted the water? Anyway, it didn’t work as described in the recipe, but it worked well enough. One odd addition to this part of the recipe is red food coloring. The recipe calls for a few drops, so I added four. It made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Now I’m getting chills thinking of all the kids of my generation who unwittingly ingested an unnecessary dose of Red Dye #2 with this.

The Jell-O/strawberry part (thickened over a fresh ice water bath) went just the way it was supposed to and ended up floating nicely on the bavarian in the center of the pie.

the finished pie - chocolate crumb crust, strawberry bavarian and Jell-O/strawberries in the center

Fresh Strawberry Pie looks like a bit of all right

I seem to be developing the habit of going to the gym to lift before tasting my Jell-O creations so that I come at them hungry. That probably wasn’t necessary with this recipe, but it certainly didn’t hurt (especially after all those Oreos I ate yesterday). The bavarian part firmed up more in the refrigerator overnight, so I was able to get a fairly clean slice. Since I had leftover Cool Whip, I decided to garnish my slice with one of those famous Cool Whip dollops – and discovered that it was softer than Cool Whip should be. Aha! Maybe the bavarian’s refusal to set up completely wasn’t my fault after all.

slice of the pie with a dollop of Cool Whip on top

Come on, is there really such a thing as too much Cool Whip? (Well, yes, actually…)

For eating, this is reasonably pleasant. I think I’ve remarked before that strawberry is one of the less offensive artificial flavors, and it goes well with cream, even fake cream. The real strawberries make the whole thing more refreshing. My main quibble is that the Oreo crust is too sweet, but that’s totally my fault. (And Bryan remarked that it seems silly to complain that the cookie crust of your Jell-O pie is too sweet.) I would go for the wafer cookie crust if I was going to make this again. To be honest, that’s unlikely, given how nutritionally questionable this is, but I do think we’ll end up eating all of this particular pie.

That said, this relatively nice one was certainly welcome at the end of what turned out to be another crazy week. I’m starting to feel leery even of NPR (and I’ve been an NPR junkie for 30 years), and I’m doing whatever I can to keep my spirits up. The Project is helping, and so is the gym. (Lifting is a meditative activity for me because of the focus I need to bring to it.) We’ve been loading up on the British comedies, and I’ve been mainlining Loose Tapestries, ELO and early Pink Floyd, staying hopped up on whimsy. The 1970s are making more and more sense to me…