Frozen Salad

Growing up, we had these great neighbors with whom we always had fantastic potlucks.  Our neighborhood was really a fantastic place.  The 4th of July picnic involved an all-neighborhood water fight and blocking off the street.  A writer I knew even wrote about it.  I’m not sure if it’s in his published works or not, but I intend to read his books to find out.

As much fun as July 4th was, it was Thanksgivings that stick in my mind.  There were green salads with chickpeas in them.  It seemed exotic to me at the time.  (Note to self:  start doing that more again).  My mom would make sweet potato rolls.  There was enough variations of the traditional foods that it seemed like passing the food almost took longer than eating it.  The crown jewel of the meal, the thing that seemed the most impressive in that whole meal was the frozen fruit salad.  It was always done in a ring mold and had canned fruit cocktail and bananas and whipped cream and marshmallows. DSCN2425At the time, I had no idea that this version of frozen salad existed. For some reason I associate butter mints and salted peanuts with old ladies (or ladies that seemed very old when I was very young).  The addition of canned pineapple and marshmallows combined into a creamy frozen Jell-O salad solidifies that feeling.  It’s both disgusting and wonderful all at the same time.  One of those guilty pleasures.  The nuts add a bit of crunch and texture.  The mints kind of bring everything together and make it really refreshing in an unexpected way.

 

When I made the salad, I realized partway through my freezing that I had forgotten to add the mints.  I ran downstairs to the freezer expecting that the salad would be frozen solid and there would and I was going to have to figure out a workaround, but it turned out that when we moved the freezer, someone had plugged it back into the wrong outlet and the power strip had tripped.  This meant my salad could easily be saved.  (It hadn’t been very long, so everything else in the freezer was saved also.  Not like that other time when I suddenly had to cook 3 pounds of ground beef, some ribs and some chicken.)

 

When you look at the recipe, there is something written next to the word “Jell-O”.  It looks like “clay”, but is probably “cherry”, but I didn’t know, so we used lemon Jell-O.

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this post.

A word of caution, this is a dessert salad.  You can serve it along with your regular meal, but it is very sweet.

Frozen Salad

Frozen Salad

1 large pack small marshmallows
1 pack Jell-O (the small box)
1 large can crushed pineapple

mix and refrigerate overnight.
Crush 1 pack butter mints.  Mix with 1 cup cream whipped.  Add nuts.  Mix with Jell-O and freeze.

 

BLT Salad

In which I attempt to hold onto summer for a minute longer.

I still have a few tomatoes clinging to the vines in my garden.  There are plenty of green tomatoes that I should pick and use to make Green Tomato Mincemeat or Fried Green Tomatoes.  That might come later.  I’m clinging to the skirts of summer, pulling on the hems, begging it not to leave quite yet.  There is so much preparation that has to happen before winter and so little daylight to do it all. DSCN2914Rather than dwelling on the melancholy of passing time, I’m going to grab another ripe tomato and make this salad again.

 

There is a movement going on right now called “Will It Waffle?”.  In his book Daniel Shumski answers this question over and over to delicious ends. DSCN2916

I believe this salad was created with a similar thought in mind, and probably before Mr. Shumski was even thinking about waffles.  Everyone has had BLTs.  There is that pleasure of biting into the crispy toast and having the tomato juice combine with the mayo as it drips down your hands.  Saladizing the classic sandwich gives it a bit of elegance.  You can serve it in a bowl, eat it with a knife and fork.  It instantly becomes fancy food.  It’s not just a salad, it’s a Panzanella.

Take one last bite out of summer.  Find that last red tomato and make this salad.  Fancy it up with a good loaf of Italian or French bread.  Use your favorite bacon.  Get out your fancy dishes and eat this salad.

DSCN2917BLT Salad

 

Frosty Lime Salad

In which I try (and somewhat fail) to impress old friends.

Another post with bad pictures, but I have to get rid of the backlog and I’m really not going to remake some of these so I can have better pictures. 

The kids and I went to the grocery store and got a bunch of packets of Jello knowing that I would eventually need them.  I had read through recipes and just got the things that I knew were popular flavors or things that I had seen.  So in the cart went Cherry, Orange, and Lemon.

We can start to enumerate my mistakes here:

  1. Going to the grocery store with 3 children
  2. Not having a good list.
  3. Buying things because I would probably need them someday.
  4. Not menu planning properly.
  5. Not realizing that when the old recipes call for packets of Jello, they mean the small packages and not the big ones.

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All of this is preparation for what happened next.  I had my old camp friend and her family coming over for dinner.  It was the first time she was seeing our new house, I had just started the idea for my blog and was excited about all of that.  And so I planned a menu that involved only recipes from my collection.  And what could be more representative of what I was trying to do than to make a Jell-O salad?

 

Looking through the ingredients I had in the house, I decided that Frosty Lime Salad sounded about perfect.  Except I didn’t have lime Jell-O.  I figured it wouldn’t matter that much if I substituted lemon.  But then I made the mistake of mentioning that I made the substitution after talking about my intention was to follow the recipes exactly as written.  And because I only had huge boxes of Jell-O, the recipe was doubled.  I might have gotten teased a bit.DSCN2719Frosty Lemon Salad is refreshing in a way you wouldn’t normally think of.  Cucumbers fresh from our garden, and celery make a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the pineapple.  I did not serve with lettuce and cherries.  The creamy layer was a bit loose, as you can see.  No one complained that this was gross, so it must’ve been ok. (Mom just told me that it was Martin VanBuren and his set that coined the term O.K., who knew?)DSCN2722Frosty Lime Salad

 

Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin

When I was young, the idea of potatoes au gratin really appealed to me. They just sounded so special and fancy.  Scalloped potatoes were a regular thing at our house and there were au gratin potato chips, but I don’t recall them being a regular part of our menu.  They may have been, but I don’t remember it.  (Sorry, mom.)

Potatoes and cheese are classic.  Switzerland has raclette (which I have eaten in Switzerland).  Canada has poutine (which I have not eaten in Canada, but I assume I will at some point.)  Sports bars have potato skins.  Diners offer cheese with hashbrowns. One time I made chipotle potatoes au gratin and they were amazing.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had a potato and cheese combination that I didn’t like. These Skillet Potatoes were no exception.  DSCN2768

Maybe these potatoes were so ooey-gooey delicious because we use Weyauwega cheese almost exclusively.  Seriously, there is nothing better.  It’s the cheese I grew up eating, so maybe that’s part of it, but it is really good cheese.  They are even distributing cheese curds to Texas now.  My friend called to ask if they were legit.  Yep.  They are the real thing. (This makes it sounds like an advertisement.  It’s not, I just really love Weyauwega cheese.)

DSCN2769Boiling the potatoes with the onions mellows the onions and just leaves the flavor.  The small amount of water used to boil the potatoes means the potatoes don’t need to be drained and the starch from them helps to thicken the cheesy sauce.  These are not the best au gratin potatoes I’ve ever had in my life.  They aren’t steakhouse worthy, but you know, for something that is ready in 30 minutes or less, it’s a pretty decent side dish for any night of the week.

Skillet Potatoes Au Gratin

Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf

In which I compare cottage cheese to the Captain and Tennille.

Last night as I was driving home in the rain, Casey Kasem was counting down the top 40 hits from 1976.  I can sing along with most of Saturday at the 70’s, but there are songs that baffle me as to how they even got popular.  As I was pulling up to the house, Captain and Tennille started crooning “Muskrat Love“.  How did that become a hit?  It’s worse than “Angie Baby“. I guess some things just make sense at the time, even if they lose relevance as the years go past.  Kind of like Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf.DSCN2838Now you have to understand, there is only one person at my house that likes cottage cheese, so we were already prejudiced against this recipe.  Then we are going to add in some mayonnaise and gelatin…How could this not be a winning dish?DSCN2840I had to look up what “creamed cottage cheese” was.  Basically, it’s the cottage cheese anyone can get at any grocery store in the US.  It has liquid in it as opposed to being dry.  It’s so common, they don’t label it that way and you’d probably have to go to a specialty store to find non-creamed cottage cheese.  (Or make it yourself).

 

This recipe did not “loaf”.  I don’t know where I went wrong in following the directions, but the gelatin did not hold this recipe into a discernible loaf.  I managed to get it to hold together long enough for pictures, but the neat slices I imagined didn’t happen.  The whole thing got scraped into a bowl and served that way.DSCN2856Everyone was required to take a taste of the vomit-like concoction because that’s the way we do things.  We try ingredients we don’t like in a variety of ways in case there is a way that we do like that ingredient.  It worked with beets, mustard, brussel sprouts, and other things.  The rule at our house is if you say you don’t like it without trying it, you need to eat twice as much as I would normally expect you to eat to try something.  We aren’t talking huge amounts here.  It’s not like I make anyone eat a double full portion, it’s more like 2 teaspoons full instead of 1 teaspoon full.  The kids prefer to have control over their serving sizes, so they agree to the terms.  It works for us and lessens the amount of whining at the table.

 

 

As we expected before we started the meal.  No one really cared for this marvelous creation.  Even the person that “liked” it couldn’t really eat more than a couple of servings over the course of a week.

This recipe, like “Muskrat Love”, should probably stay back in the time period from whence it came.  It’s sometimes better to just leave things in the past.  But if you insist on doing things your own way, maybe you should try the pineapple variation.Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf

Sweet and Sour Bean Combo vs 4 Bean Salad

In which I make 2 bean dishes.

It’s time for the ultimate showdown.  The world holds its collective breath and waits while the final verdict is determined.  In the battle of the beans, who will come out on top?  A bean dish served warm with a cooked sweet and sour sauce, or is it a dish served cold (like revenge) with a simple shaken dressing?

It may be surprising to learn that I don’t actually remember eating bean salad until last summer.  I’ve seen it on potluck tables my entire life.  Who in the Midwest hasn’t?  Usually nestled in there between some cheesy potato casserole and a layered Jell-O salad.  The thing is, bean salad of any variety does not look that interesting.  The colors are kind of clashy.  It kind of has that look of a 70’s kitchen.  It just doesn’t look like it would actually taste good.  And everyone knows that we eat with our eyes first.

Ok, so these two recipes have a lot of similar ingredients.  Both use kidney, wax, and green beans.  The Sweet and Sour Bean combo allows for fresh.  The 4 bean salad calls for cans.  This is not major.  Either could be switched out for the other (except good luck finding fresh kidney beans).

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The cooked dressing in the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo calls for using the liquid from the beans.  Do NOT use the liquid from the can of kidney beans.  It does nothing for the texture of the sauce.

 

The 4 Bean Salad, as you will notice when you look at the recipe calls for 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of green beans, and 1 can of wax beans.  There is no fourth bean unless you are counting that it’s being served to a human bean…We discussed options for 4th bean. You could use both dark and light kidney beans or throw some edamame in there.  Garbanzo might be ok.  I think I’d veer away from canned lima, but frozen/thawed might be ok.  And realistically, it was probably supposed to be called 3 Bean Salad, but people get moving too fast and write things down without thinking and then never bothered to change it.

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The overall flavor of the cold 4 Bean Salad was much better than the hot Sweet and Sour Bean Combo.  The only thing we liked about the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo was the kidney beans.  This is not good.  You should not make food where you only appreciate one ingredient of the finished dish.  We tried it again the next day to see if the flavor was improved.  It wasn’t.

Make the 4 Bean Salad.  Add another bean if you like.  I might think about reducing the sugar and using fresh beans.  This salad is light and refreshing.  It’s a compliment to whatever meat you are serving, but can also be used as an ingredient in a larger salad.

 

Make sure the onion is sliced thinly and you may even consider cutting it into half moons instead of rings.  It all depends on how much you like large pieces of onion.  If you are using olive oil instead of another type, you may end up with chunks of cold oil in your salad.  This is perfectly normal. As the temperature rises, the chunks will melt back into oil.  If you prefer, you can pretend it’s oil “caviar” and you have performed some feat of molecular gastronomy.

4 Bean SaladSweet and Sour Green Bean Combo

Cooked Cranberry Salad

In which I make a gelatin salad.

I am not a Jell-O girl.  I don’t care for it and have probably eaten more of it while making recipes for this blog than I have my entire life.  I’ve certainly made more of it.  And there are so many recipes left to go.  I am debating investing some serious money in ring molds and individual molds at the thrift shops nearby.  You know, all of $10 maybe.

When I was a young girl, I read a book by Lois Lenski called Berries in the Scoop.  I was intrigued by the notion of cranberry bogs and how cranberries were harvested.  In the story a little girl loses her grandmother’s pin in the cranberry bogs and ***Spoiler alert*** after she falls on the ice and injures herself while ice skating on the bogs she finds it and they all live happily ever after.  Or maybe they do.  I mean, once you injure your ankle it never goes back to exactly how it used to be.

Anyway, everyone eats cranberries during the holidays and I am no exception.  We are a real cranberry family and don’t eat the canned stuff.  My sister loves cranberries when they are fresh and raw and mixed with orange and just enough sugar to take a little of the tart out. I prefer mine slightly sweeter and a little more cooked.  Occasionally when it’s not the holidays I’ll have a glass of cranberry juice with or without vodka, but I ignore cranberries in their hydrated form for most of the year.  I think most of us do.  Dried cranberries are a different story all together.  This might change that.DSCN2368

First of all, this recipe calls for unflavored gelatin.  This means no artificial colors or flavors if you care about that stuff.  It means that the only flavors you are going to get out of it are the ones that you put into it.  Because it was July when I made this recipe I wasn’t going to get fresh cranberries, but I had some left in the freezer that someone brought me back from one of the Cranberry Festivals and that I was going to take to my sister’s for Thanksgiving and forgot. I think I had also offered them to my mom, but forgot to put them in her cooler also.  I guess maybe I was fated to use them for this recipe.

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This recipe is beautiful.  There is something about that deep red color.  John says this recipe reminds him of really good fruit cocktail.  It’s somehow light and refreshing despite having that tartness of cranberries.  The pineapple adds sweetness, the nuts add crunch and depth. The grapes just lighten everything up.  Serve this up with some whipped cream.  Or be like Caroline and dip your pork chops in it.  It’s a good side for roasted meats. Cooked Cranberry Salad