In which I get advice from a coworker.
Isn’t there something so nice about the word “Fluff”? It’s soft and comforting and towels out of the dryer. When someone tells you that a “fluff” is on the menu, you know what to expect. Something soft, puffy, creamy, and cloyingly sweet, perhaps with marshmallows and definitely with whipped cream or Cool Whip. At nearly any deli counter in America, you can pick up a plastic tub filled with pistachio pineapple fluff. (Sometimes the salads are called “Ambrosia” instead of “fluff”, but we all know what they mean.)I found this recipe when I was looking for recipes to bring to our friends’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. I scoured 11 different recipes looking for the perfect dish to bring along with my Cherry Meringue, Pumpkin, and Apple pies. I asked a number of coworkers for their favorite thing to eat at Thanksgiving and one of them mentioned “Cranberry Fluff”. I had never heard of it. When I called my grandma to ask about it, she fondly remembered it as one of her favorites. How could I not make it after that? As an aside, that was such a good conversation with my grandma. I love talking to her about her food memories and bonding with her that way. We chatted for a decent amount of time about the blog. I hope she knows that she’s really the inspiration for it.
I had a few minor modifications. My apple was sweeter than I was expecting it to be. The grocery store didn’t have green grapes that day, so I used red ones. I didn’t read through all the instructions and didn’t let the cranberries, marshmallows, and sugar sit overnight. I let them sit on the counter for a couple of hours instead. The purpose of this is really just to soften everything and ensure that there are no big chunks of marshmallow.
So the verdict…holy buckets. This was easily the best fluff salad that I’ve had. It’s not as sweet and mushy as a lot of fluff salads. The fruit and nuts add texture. One of the kids thought the “pink fluff” was better than the “green fluff”. It was good enough that I didn’t mind eating the leftovers (which were gone before I had to go back to work.) It made a nice change from super tart cranberries. It was sort of like a Waldorf salad, but not mayonnaise-y. All in all, this dish is a keeper. Get yourself some Wisconsin cranberries and make this one. I think it’s a better dish than the Cooked Cranberry Salad. (And in case you didn’t read about it before, the teacup is Wedgwood that I found at the thrift shop for less than $1. I love the color, I love the pattern, it coordinates with my dining room and the rest of my blue and white dishes.)
3 Days until Christmas!
Before I even begin with discussion on these recipes, I need to comment about those mini colored marshmallows. Do they really exist for a reason outside of small children, jello salads, and grandparents? The first time I heard about Church Windows cookies (are they cookies or are they candy?) was after our tree fell on our neighbor’s fence. It might be the biggest event this neighborhood has seen in a while. It was such a big event that as we were cutting it down, neighbors from the senior housing facility put out their chairs, plugged in their crockpots, and sat outside to watch. I treated them to some rhubarb brownies and some chocolate chip cookies. Some of the men came over to help. We started chatting about Christmas cookie plates and he told me about the church windows cookies. I assumed he was talking about stained glass cookies, but when he described them, this was exactly what he meant. I never expected to find that recipe among my great-grandma’s. No matter what the recipe says about double boiler, melt the chocolate in the microwave. It’s so much easier. Put it in for a minute, stir it after a minute, it might need another 15 or 30 seconds, but it won’t need much more. Stirring these bad boys is hard. It’s messy and involved. Ok, so flavor…think something like rocky road. But vaguely fruity with coconut. They aren’t bad, but probably best in small doses.
As for the candy…who in could resist something called “Darned Good Candy”? I made it wrong the first time I did it. Use chopped pecans instead of whole pecans. It makes a difference. I also learned to not put hot candy on waxed paper. Guess what happens? It sticks. You end up with delicious candy that leaves paper in your mouth. So these pictures are of the second time that I tried making the candy.
Darned Good Candy is like a caramel taffy. It’s stiff and it’s creamy. It’s got buttery undertones and the pecan flavor permeates the whole candy. Yeah, it sticks to your teeth, but in the best possible way. It’s really darned good.
Darned Good Candy
3 cups sugar
1 cup sweet or sour cream
1 cup white corn syrup
Bring ingredients to a boil.
Add 1 heaping cup of chopped pecans and 1 tsp salt. Boil to a very hard ball.
Add 4 TB butter and 2 tsp vanilla (mix until butter is melted).
Let cool 10 minutes. Start beating lightly until mixture begins to hold its shape. Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased sheet. (I shaped the warm candy into small oblong pieces).
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. At 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.
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.