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Jell-O Mold's Comeback

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The Question(s)... Does Jell-O have a place at your dinner party? Is Jell-O mold hip?

Friends whom we had lost touch with for years invited us to an intimate dinner party in their beautiful new home last summer. We had drinks outdoors. The landscaping was magnificent, the pool light caused a romantic glow, and the grill -- I didn't know they made them that big.  When we went inside to dine, the formal dining room was set with china.

Dinner was served buffet-style -- the chicken and beef grilled to perfection, the organic micro-green salad and exotic quinoa grains filled beautiful glass bowls, grilled vegetables with a hint of olive oil were plated and sprinkled with Himalayan sea salt. But what was that over there at the end of the buffet? Yellow Jell-O? Yes, a Jell-O mold had been invited to dinner! Even better -- it was layered -- it had to have been made with Cool Whip.

"Jell-O mold!" I exclaimed in excitement, but it came out as a question.

"Yes, it's lemon!"

"Wow, I love Jell-O mold!  I just haven't seen a Jell-O mold at a dinner party in a really long time. Like forever!"

"Really?" She was stunned. She couldn't believe it. And I couldn't believe she couldn't believe it.

"Everyone makes Jell-O mold!" she explained to me. "Either this lemon one or the cranberry one."

"No they don't. No one makes Jell-O mold any more. Only on Thanksgiving. And it gets thrown out."

"Yes they do." Awkward silence, then my husband gave me the eyes that said, "enough already about the Jell-O mold." I politely changed the topic.

Was I missing something? This woman, who was upsizing when everyone else was downsizing, who served lemon mold at her fancy dinner party -- did she have access to special information? Did Jell-O mold never go out of style, or did it become hip again and I missed it? Is it trendy now to serve a mold of artificial sugar and hooves alongside the microgreens and gluten-free dessert?

And....One Opinion....

Dear Ronna,

I read your story about Jell-O mold with horrified amazement. I, for one, haven't seen a Jell-O mold at a party -- well, a good party, anyway -- since I was a child. My mother was the queen of Jell-O mold.

I was tormented by Jell-O molds nearly every single time I sat down to dinner. Just the sight of them made me slightly queasy. I don't know if it was the garish colors, the bits of fruit poking out here and there, or the odd shape the Jell-O took on from the mold itself, with its interchangeable discs that were inserted into the bottom of the pan (Flowers! Fruits! Animals!).

Every night my mother and I would have this conversation:

Mom: "Sharon, would you like some Jell-O mold?"

Sharon: "Mom, I hate Jell-O mold. I tell you that every night."

Just recently I went to my mother's house for a party, and she served -- you guessed it -- Jell-O mold. It was carnation pink, with heaven knows what suspended in it. The original mold having long disappeared, my mother made it in a pyrex baking dish, topped with a few dollops of whipped cream.

Honestly, it couldn't have been any less appetizing to me.

This time, though, she didn't ask if I wanted any -- she knew better.

If ever I am at a (good) party and someone serves a Jell-O mold, I will hold back my laughter and politely decline. If day-glo food is your thing, who am I to judge?

So....

What do YOU think? Is there a place for Jello mold at your dinner table? If so, you might want to check out these recipes:

The Old Standby with a New Twist -- The Best Raspberry Lemon Jell-O

Ingredients:

6 ounces each raspberry and lemon jell-o packages
8 ounces cream cheese
12 ounces frozen raspberries

Directions:

  1. 1. Drain juice from a 12-ounce package of frozen raspberries.
  2. 2. Add enough water to equal 2 1/2 cups.
  3. 3. Bring liquid to a boil and add a 6-ounce pkg. of raspberry jell-o. Stir until dissolved.
  4. 4. Grease a jell-o mold with butter.
  5. 5. Pour berries into bottom of mold. Pour raspberry jell-o over berries and chill until set.
  6. 6. Soften cream cheese and whip with a mixer.
  7. 7. Boil 2 1/2 cups water and stir in a 6-ounce package of lemon jell-o. Dissolve completely.
  8. 8. Using mixer, stir a very small amount of jello into the cream cheese. Mix well. Keep doing this until you have used all the lemon jell-o. Cool to room temperature or slightly thicker.
  9. 9. When the raspberry jell-o has gelled completely, pour lemon jell-o mixture over the top.
  10. 10. Let set and then invert onto a plate for presentation.
(Above recipe from:  http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/170764/the-best-raspberry-lemon-jello-dessert.)

And a new party "Drunken" Jell-O Mold

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 6 3-oz packages flavored gelatin dessert mix
  • 3 envelopes plain gelatin (6 tsp gelatin powder, divided)
  • 3 cups flavored rum or vodka, divded
  • 1 1/8 cup vanilla yogurt, divided
Directions:
  1. Place the bottle of liquor in the freezer for several hours before beginning recipe.
  2. Lightly spray bundt pan or gelatin mold with non stick cooking spray. (I used a 10-cup bundt pan.) Wipe off the excess spray with a paper towel. A slight residue should remain, just enough to help unmold your gelatin, without affecting the taste or appearance.
  3. Pour 3/4 cup water into a saucepan and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the plain gelatin. Allow gelatin to soak for a minute or two. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Wisk in the first package of flavored gelatin. Whisk for at least 2 minutes, or until completely dissolved. (I find the sugar-free mix dissolves much faster than the regular!)
  4. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup of the cold liquor, and stir to combine.
  5. Pour 3/4 cup of the gelatin mixture into the prepared mold, and place in refrigerator. Allow to set for 20 to 30 minutes, until the gelatin is a little firm, but still sticks when touched. Very important -- if the layers set up too much, the next layer won't bond appropriately.
  6. Refrigerate the remaining gelatin mixture in bowl for about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites). Gradually stir in 3 tablespoons of yogurt and stir until well blended. This cooling step is also important - the gelatin must be cooled to room temperature before adding on top of other layers, or the layers will not be well defined!
  7. Gently spoon the gelatin/yogurt mixture over set gelatin and return to the refrigerator Refrigerate about 15 minutes or until gelatin is set but not firm. (Again, it should stick to finger when touched.) As the layers progress, the setting time will become shorter as the pan and gelatin becomes colder, and the layers become thinner as more layers are added to the mold.
  8. Repeat steps with remaining gelatin flavors, for a total of 12 alternating clear and creamy gelatin layers.
  9. After completing all the layers, refrigerate the gelatin overnight. To unmold, fill a larger container or clean sink with warm water (not too hot!). With clean fingers, loosen the gelatin around the edges of the mold cavities. Next, dip the mold almost to the edge into the warm water for just a few seconds (10 seconds worked for me). Dry the bottom of the mold with a towel and check the edges to see if they are loose, if not, repeat the dip for just a few seconds. Place your serving plate on top of the mold and invert. Voila!  (Recipe from http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/spiked-rainbow-ribbon-salad-recipe.)

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