Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Jell-O: A Biography" & "Amazing Magical Jell-O Desserts" - Sweet Raspberry Chicken and Sink and Swim (Jell-O)

Date I made these recipes:  July 20, 2014

Jell-O: A Biography – The History and Mystery of "America's Most Famous Dessert" by Carolyn Wyman
Published by:  A Harvest Original/Harcourt, Inc.
ISBN:  0-15-601123-9
Recipe:  Sweet Raspberry Chicken – p. 139

Amazing Magical Jell-O® Brand Desserts (Plus:  Magic Tricks by Marvello the Great) by the General Foods Corporation
Published by:  General Foods Corporation
ISBN:  0-671-24649-6-199
Purchased at Hennepin County Library Used Book Sale 2013
Recipe:  Sink or Swim (Jell-O) – p. 13

So this is how the conversation about what to serve for dinner tonight went down:

Me:  "So, we're having a Jell-O and chicken dish for dinner tonight."
Andy:  "Say WHAT?"

So went the conversation with my husband when I decided, after a very recent visit to the Jell-O Museum, to make something out of my two Jell-O cookbooks.  He was not initially amused.  In fact, the incredulous look on his face kept my laughing for at least 10 minutes.  But although the dish might not have looked or sounded attractive, it was actually pretty decent.

But first, let's talk backstory!  My brother and sister-in-law live near Rochester, NY, and we visited them recently.  Several years ago, when scoping out things to see and do near Rochester, I discovered the Jell-O Museum was located in nearby LeRoy, NY.  And just like that my (imaginary) bucket list was complete.

So on this recent trip, I told my family that come hell, high water, or Jell-O, we had to make the trip so we did.  It was fraught with peril.

First, I think we all have learned (again) that not all online map websites are made alike and whatever my sister-in-law used (she was driving) had us driving all over hell's half acre.  So we pulled over and she once again put in "LeRoy, NY" and the map website she used came back with "LOL Toy."  OMG, it's a good thing we were pulled over or I think we'd have crashed the car from laughing so hard.

So we finally backtracked to LeRoy (pronounced "Luh Roy") and almost zipped our way right past the museum. Let's just say the town in rather small.  But finally, Nancy spotted a tiny little lawn sign that said "Jell-O Museum" and we had arrived.  Woo hoo! (By the way, the nearby town of Chili, NY is pronounced Chai-Lai.  Okay...sure.)

The museum itself is tiny but interesting and before your tour, you are given a little History of Jell-O 101 tutorial by a museum worker.  At the start of our self-guided tour, we had a young lady but when the next wave of people came in, she was temporarily replaced by an older woman I called "Helen" (not her real name).  "Hele" took the job of Guardian of the History of Jell-O very seriously, such that when my sister-in-law, Nancy, asked Helen for more information about how Jell-O was made, Helen clammed up and just glared at Nancy.  Well, folks, it's not like how Jell-O is made is a big secret and in fact, there's a tiny little display about it in the museum but what it still really didn't tell you is that Jell-O is an animal by-product and the Jell-0 folks are just a tad sensitive about this topic.  As in, they asked us (and they weren't exactly kidding) if we were from PETA.  Ha!

Nancy, startled by this hostile reception then dubbed poor "Helen" the Jell-O Nazi and all efforts to engage her in a conversation were for naught.  Under "Helen's" glare, Nancy started leafing through the Jell-O: A Biography book (containing the Raspberry Chicken recipe) in the gift shop and lo and behold, on page 81, you will find "Jell-O Science 101" which breaks out the chemistry of how Jell-O is made and formed (while still skirting the issue of the "animal" involvement."  Well, as a physician, Nancy found this not only fascinating but just what she was looking for and so she couldn't wait to share this with "Helen":  "'am?  What I was talking about is right here on p. 81.  See?  (Points out the page to Helen...) It talks about the chemistry of Jell-O...."

"Helen" was not amused but I sure was.  Nancy is nothing if not most sincere but "Helen" set her laser beam eyeballs on "incinerate" and did not appreciate being told that the Jell-O science was all laid out on page 81.  No sir!

But if I was a betting person, I'd put money on the fact that "Hele" went home and studied page 81 just so she could point out to the inquiring minds that the chemistry story was all there for the taking if you cared to read it instead of listening to "Helen" who had more important things to tell you about Jell-O than that!

But despite everything, we enjoyed our tour of the Jell-O Museum and LeRoy (and places in between) and I vowed when I got home that I would make a recipe out of the Jell-O biography book that I already owned and I did.  But finding a recipe was a challenge in that I didn't exactly want to make the same old, same old and that's in part why I went with the Sweet Raspberry Chicken.

Fair warning:  this is not the most attractive dish you'll ever eat but if you get past the Jell-O sauce, it'll remind you of Chinese chicken that is often served in similar fashion with the signature screaming red coating.  If anything, I would have liked a bit more of the soy sauce to offset the sweetness of the marmalade and the Jell-O.

And since I was on a roll with Jell-O books, I also pulled out the Amazing Magical Jell-O® Brand Desserts cookbook, mostly intended for kids, and made the Sink or Swim (Jell-O) recipe with fresh peaches and a mix of fruit cocktail.  It's simplicity made me smile as it reminded me of the Jell-O recipes my mom used to serve us as kids.

Although the Jell-O: A Biography book contains more stories than recipes, the recipes included are classics and I was tempted to make the Lime Jell-O Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise (p. 111) but thought better of it when I saw it included more ingredients than I remembered and that I didn't think went well with each other, like pimento and marshmallows.  But hey, if your palate thinks that's a great combination, then go for it.

And that, kids, concludes the history of Jell-O as I interpreted it, with a little help from my sister-in-law, Nancy, and a tad bit of assistance from our friend, "Helen."  If you get a chance to get to LeRoy, NY, outside Rochester, do stop in because the museum, although small is very interesting and very fun.  In the end, I think I saw "Helen" waving goodbye along with the rest of the staff and with a smile on her face...although that could have meant anything from "Okay, I learned something" to "Don't let the door hit you on the way out, girlie."  And we're okay with that.

Sweet Raspberry Chicken – serves 6 to 8
8 tablespoons butter
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (24-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 green pepper, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 (18-ounce) jar orange marmalade
¼ cup soy sauce
1 (6-ounce) package raspberry Jell-O gelatin
Sliced or slivered almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9 x 13-inch glass casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.  Place chicken breasts in dish.  Cover with pineapple, pepper and onion.  Melt 7 tablespoons of the butter.  Microwave uncovered marmalade jar on high for 15 to 30 seconds.  In a bowl, mix butter, softened marmalade, soy sauce, and dry Jell-O powder.  Pour ingredients over chicken.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let sit 5 minutes before sprinkling with almonds (if desired) and spooning over cooked rice.

Sink or Swim – makes 5 servings
1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O brand strawberry flavor gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water or ginger ale (Ann's Note:  I used ginger ale)
1 cup (about) fruit combination* (Ann's Note:  see below.  Use ½ cup fruit that sink and ½ cup fruits that float)

*Fruits that sink:  Mandarin oranges; seedless grapes; drained canned fruit cocktail (packed in heavy syrup) such as:  peach slices, sliced pear halves, crushed pineapple or pineapple chunks, cherries or apricots.
*Fruits that float:  Banana slices; apple wedges or diced apple; strawberry halves; fresh orange sections; fresh sliced peaches or pears; marshmallows or coarsely chopped nuts.

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water in heatproof glass bowl.  Add cold water.  Then add fruits that will sink then fruits that will float.

Chill until firm, at least 3 hours.  Garnished with whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping, if desired.
Ann's Note:  I got carried away with my fruit and so everything sort of jumbled together instead of sinking or swimming properly but I did not care.  This is easy and tasty and that's all you need to know about that!

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