First of all, let’s just clarify that this recipe is not for a real salad. It is for a dessert. It is called a salad in the sense that Jell-O with fruit or nut bits mixed in is known as a Jell-O salad, gelatin salad, or congealed salad (that name gives me the “no” feeling).
My grandmother had a whole box of these gelatin salad recipes. Some of the combinations made no sense to me like grated onion in lime Jell-O with a tuna topping. I am happy to report that there is nothing repulsive about this strawberry pretzel salad. It is delightful and delicious, and it was the perfect ending to our neighborhood 4th of July parade and feast.
2 c. crushed pretzels
10 T. butter, melted
1/4 c. + 1 c. sugar
16-oz cream cheese, softened
1 t. pure vanilla extract
8 oz. Cool Whip, thawed
1 6-oz pkg strawberry flavored Jell-O
2 c. boiling water
3 c. strawberries, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, pour the crushed pretzels and 1/4 cup sugar and stir to combine. Add the melted butter and stir again until mixed thoroughly.
Press the pretzel mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 pan and bake for ~8 minutes.
Remove pretzel crust from oven and let cool completely.
While the crust is baking, slice strawberries and put them in a bowl in the freezer. The cold strawberries will help the gelatin set up faster.
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and 1 cup sugar, and stir until smooth. Add the Cool Whip and continuing stirring until cream cheese is combined, and the texture is smooth again.
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. Make sure the cream mixture is against the edges of the pan to prevent the Jell-O mix from seeping through.
Place the pan with the crust and cream layers in the refrigerator while you mix the Jell-O.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from the stove and add strawberry Jell-O. Stir until Jell-O is dissolved. Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Add the strawberries from the freezer and let Jell-O cool a little more.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator and carefully poor the Jell-O mix over the cream layer.
Put pan back in the refrigerator until the Jell-O is set. It will take a minimum of 1 hour.
If the Jell-O is too hot when you pour over the cream layer, it will leak through. This will not ruin the taste of the dish, but it won’t look as pretty.
Skinny pretzel sticks or the tic-tac-toe board pretzel shapes work well. You can crush in a food processor or put the pretzels in a Ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over them. Pretzel crushing is a great job for littler helpers.
There are many versions of this dessert, and I compared several recipes. The ingredient list and amounts stay about the same. You may want to add a few more scoops of Cool Whip than what I listed or adjust sugar amounts.
I think things are going well considering there are 10 people sleeping in my house. Everyone has made it to the beach and/or pool every day. Kids are going to bed at roughly the correct bedtimes, and I have not had to visit the grocery store more than once a day.
Current damages are minimal. Only 4 of Mr. Star Wars’ Lego men have missing hands; about a dozen have rearranged body parts. I don’t think the toddler ate the hands, but it is a possibility. Miss Priss slammed her foot in the car door while we were loading up the crew, and one niece got sick resulting in a late night visit to the 24-hour pharmacy.
Even though we have not had any major catastrophes or arguments, it was time for an adult beverage. Aunt B and I scrolled through my Yummy Drinks Pinterest Board for inspiration and created a Strawberry Peach Vodka Sparkler last night. We highly recommend.
Is this a normal coping strategy when family visits? Can anyone else relate?
12 strawberries (~10 for the fruit vodka and extra for garnish)
2 c. vodka
1 c. simple syrup (see the notes)
1 c. fresh lemon juice
Prosecco (or other sparkling wine)
fresh mint for garnish
Cut 10 strawberries into bite sizes and place in a pitcher. Cut the peach into bite sizes and add to the pitcher. Pour vodka over the fruit and let steep in the refrigerator 3+ hours.
Make simple syrup and let cool (see notes below).
After the vodka finishes steeping, strain the fruit from the vodka.
Mix equal parts fruit vodka, simple syrup, and lemon juice. I mixed 1 cup each of fruit vodka, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice, which yielded about 4 cocktails. You can double or triple (or reduce) as needed.
Fill a glass about 2/3 full with crushed ice. Pour the drink mix over the ice; top with a splash of Prosecco (~2 oz.).
Garnish with a mint sprig and a slice of strawberry and serve.
The color of the fruit leeches out while sitting in the vodka, so it is not very pretty to leave the soaked fruit in your cocktail, but you certainly can.
We think the strawberries and peach could be replaced with different berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) but have not tested our theory yet.
To make simple syrup, Put equal parts water and sugar in a pot and heat on the stove until sugar is dissolved. Swirl the mixture a few times while heating. Remove from heat and let cool. If you only need a few cocktails, mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. If you are mixing cocktails for a large group, double or triple. Leftover simple syrup can be kept in a container with a lid in the refrigerator for a long time.
Aunt B arrived yesterday with her two boys. Sewing Sister arrives tomorrow with her girls. I will have a full house for the next few weeks. Since I live near the beach, we have houseguests during the summer fairly regularly. I have systems and procedures for everything much to the frustration of TheRoomDad. In order to get ready for any friends and family who may be visiting, there are a few houseguest preparatory measures I follow.
I collect hotel shampoos and lotions throughout the year, travel toothpastes from dentist visits, and Christmas toothbrushes and keep them in a special “guest” drawer in our bathroom that people can use when they visit. Guests are welcome to use any of the toiletries. I also keep an extra hair dryer in the bathroom for guests.
I have a secret addiction to junky magazines like Us and In Touch. After reading an issue, I will keep a stack in our spare room. Guests are welcome to read them when they visit. I keep a stack of paperback beach reads in the room too.
I stock the refrigerator with “group food”, so people can serve themselves a little bite at any time. Some of my favorite items to have on hand are DILL DIP and BLACK BEAN SALSA DIP. I thrive on party food and love to make it. I am not sure why it is so different from the day to day monotony of preparing family meals (which I dread), but it is. I find that food preparation and kitchen maintenance are the hardest pieces to manage when guests are in town.
For this particular family visit, I baked a pound cake, which is one of Aunt B’s favorites. I think this is kind of a traditional version of pound cake because if you Google “cream cheese pound cake” you get many results with the exact recipe that I use. I have been having problems with my Bundt pan, but I finally just threw the thing away and bought a new cake pan. Success! The pound cake turned out perfectly.
Most recent baking attempt with the old Bundt pan. This should have been a glazed lemon cake.
3 sticks butter, softened (1 1/2 cups)
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
3 c. flour, sifted
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Blend butter and cream cheese.
Add sugar until well mixed.
Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla.
Add sifted flour slowly.
Put mixture in greased and floured Bundt or tube pan.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let sit for ~5 minutes.
After the cake rests for a few minutes, hold a cake plate on top of the Bundt pan and turn over, so the cake will drop into the middle of the cake plate. Let the Bundt pan stay on the top of the cake until you can see that the cake has dropped onto the cake plate.
To grease and flour a Bundt pan, cover the inside of the pan completely with Crisco. Scoop about 1/4 c. flour into the bottom of the pan. Holding the pan over a sink, roll (and tap) the pan around on its side letting the flour stick to all parts of the Crisco.
Make sure that you turn the cake out of the pan while it is warm. This will help make the layer that sits on the cake plate squish down a little and be crispy and moist at the same time. That bottom portion of each slice is TheRoomMom family’s favorite bite of cake.
What strategies do you have for overnight guests, or do you just book a hotel room?
TheRoomDad was reminiscing about the days when I used to prepare delicious meals most evenings. That was before we had children, and I was trying to impress him. Fast forward to today. I only get excited about preparing food for parties and school snacks. If it is bite sized food, snack food, or party dips, I am all about it. Otherwise, I don’t want to be bothered.
One recipe that I have not used in awhile is something from my childhood– a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets. They may seem like kid food at first glance, but they actually have a slightly more sophisticated taste than your average chicken nugget, and I used to make them for TheRoomDad. It is a recipe adults and kids enjoy. I was gracious enough to dust off the family cookbook and make the chicken nuggets last night. I was going to say how much healthier they are than a box of nuggets from the freezer section of the grocery store, but then I remembered that the chicken is dredged in melted butter before being coated in seasoned bread crumbs. Enjoy!
I kicked off the holiday shopping season with the personalized rubber stamps for Miss Priss’ and Mr. Star Wars’ teachers. Personalized seems to be the theme for me this year. I usually keep a list going all year (yes, I am that OCD) and jot down ideas as people mention things. When holiday shopping season officially starts, I review the list and try to come up with ideas that might apply to several people, so I can order more than one of the same thing. I have a brother and two sisters who all have kids plus TheRoomDad’s family. We try to do a little something for each family group, so the list gets pretty long.
Here are some gift ideas on my “to buy” list this year, and most of them are personalized in some way. That usually means a longer ship time, so I better get on the stick!
Monogrammed Jewelry: I know my tween nieces would love necklaces like this because they keep pinning these types of things. I also think they are great gifts for my mom, sisters, and sisters-in law.
Monogrammed Scarves: I love all of the color choices for these scarves. I would also do something like this with a pashmina. Find pashminas at a local store and take them to a monogrammer. FYI– This would make a great teacher gift. Classroom temperatures can be difficult to regulate!
Personalized Wrapping Paper: One thing I like about this gift is that it is consumable, so it does not have to be stored for very long.
Mini Photo Books: These books are set up like board books. I think they make great personalized gifts for little people and grandparents to share when visiting.
Custom Ornament: My parents have a collection of paintings of all of the houses where they have lived. We moved a lot, so the collection is large. These ornaments reminded me of the paintings. It would be fun to order ornaments with a different house every year.
Fort Kit: This one is not a personalized gift but a DIY gift. Fill a drawstring bag with supplies to build a fort like plain sheets and clothespins. I think this is so clever.
Anyone else have a successful shopping strategy or great ideas that will work for several people? You could also return to last year’s gift list for a little inspiration.