50 Shots of America–Utah

Mo-Rita Cocktail

Mo-Rita Cocktail

One man’s desert is another man’s oasis.

Did you know that Utah remained a Mexican territory until the end of the Mexican war? Fur trappers liked it well enough but Spain just wasn’t interested in such a desolate area. The Mormons, on the other hand and under the leadership of Brigham Young, found it a great place to settle down to practice their religion without the resistance or interference they’d encountered elsewhere.

Of course, it didn’t remain so simple and idyllic. When it came time to join the Union their original application was rejected! It was that whole pesky plural marriage thing that proved the sticky wicket. So, when they petitioned again, the state constitution contained a clause banning polygamy, and they were accepted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896.

Anyone who has ever scrapbooked has probably bought something by ProvoCraft–the Mormon practice of journaling and memory-keeping launched what is now one of the largest sectors in the craft industry.

Now, there’s more to Utah than Mormonism, but for most folks it’s probably the first thing we think of. It may not be a dry state (they’re an alcohol beverage control state, actually) but it’s been a while since we’ve done a mock-tail so this seemed like as good a reason as any!


1 barspoon Lime Gelatin
1 barspoon Lime Juice
1 barspoon Lemon Juice
1 oz Simple Syrup
1.5 oz Club Soda

Combine the gelatin powder, juices and simple syrup over ice in a mixing glass. Shake with vigor and stir in the club soda until chilled. Rim a cordial glass with salt and add 2 ice cubes for a Mo-Rita on the rocks. Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass.

A virgin margarita is actually a tricky thing to pull off. Once I tried it with the bottled mix and Sprite and it tasted like a caffeine-free Mountain Dew. And not in a good way. In a lot of virgin-able drinks the flavor is coming from something other than the alcohol, which is why soda can be substituted without too much trouble or the alcohol left out entirely (in the case of a frozen daiquiri that turns into a smoothie). Margaritas, though, get the majority of their flavor from the tequila and triple sec–the sour mix (or, preferably, simple sugar and lime juice) is just there to keep it from being a glorified tequila shot.

So, for this mocktail, we concentrated on the sweet vs. salty aspect of the margarita and the drink itself? Very sweet. Almost too sweet. I blame the gelatin, in part, but when I read that Jell-o was the official snack food of Utah I had to toss some in for good measure. Alternately, you could mix the powdered gelatin with the salt for the rim instead of using it in the drink itself!

With a Cranberry on Top!

Rasp-en-Crans Salad

Rasp-en-Crans Salad

Okay, the cranberries are in it, the walnuts on top, but you get the general idea!

Serene of the (recently launched!) Mom Food Project sent in her favorite jell-o salad that sounded pretty yummy from the get-go. Actually, she described it as “strange and delicious.” I think she’s right.

Rasp-en-Crans Salad

2 1.4-oz boxes Raspberry Gelatin
1 c boiling Water
1 16-oz can Whole-Berry Cranberry Sauce
1/2 c diced Celery
1 c Greek Yogurt
1/2 c chopped Walnuts, optional

Combine the gelatin and water in a mixing bowl and stir until the powder dissolves. Chill until viscous but not firm. [In other words, don’t be in a hurry, stick it in the freezer and forget about it for an hour. But if you do, let it sit at room temperature for a while and stir with a whisk. Proceed as if you didn’t just screw it up.]

Stir in the cranberry sauce, celery and yogurt until fairly uniform, adding in the nuts if you’re using them. Divide into 4 single-serving molds or or larger bowl or mold and chill until firm.

After Serene told me about this one I was curious but having to talk myself through it, too. Celery? Not the first thing I think of with the sweet. But, you know, you top celery with peanut butter and raisins, and that’s tasty. And then there’s the fruited chicken salad–it’s borderline sweet and it’s got celery in it, too! Okay, we’re good with the celery.

Originally the reference recipes I found called for sour cream. That was a no-brainer for me: Greek yogurt is just as tasty, has less calories and is naturally fat-free. And the walnuts are only optional because Todd’s allergic. In fact, I’d suggest you hold off on the nuts if you’re taking this to a pot-luck or serving guests who may have unknown allergies just because it’s so common. I did put them on the top/side of my portion and they really did add quite a lot to the flavor of the dish.

The name amuses me, and it’s my improvisation on the very boring (yet descriptive) Cran-Raspberry or Cranberry-Raspberry titles I was finding around the web. If you have a wordy crowd you could even go so far as to call it the Rasp-en-Crantz Salad with Gilded-nuts (and actually gild the walnuts). Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? From Hamlet?

Moving on.

Oh, and I needed a garnish for the photo and all we had that looked right was cilantro. Even though it was just laying on top, a couple of bites featured a bit of the flavor of the garnish and I’ll be damned if it didn’t taste pretty good. And I’m not the biggest fan of cilantro even in the foods it’s SUPPOSED to be on. Go figure? I wouldn’t suggest chopping some up and adding it with the celery, but a chiffonade sprinkled over the top along with a little extra Greek yogurt might be just the thing to elevate this molded salad in the taste buds of others, as it did mine!


I’ve still got spaces open for more gelatin desserts! Leave ’em in the comments! There could even be prizes involved…

A Salad Without Scandal

Watergate Salad

Watergate Salad

I’m so excited, I’ve already got 2 recipes to try out in my hunt for the essential summer dessert!

The first comes from an old high school friend via Facebook and it’s fitting in a way: I didn’t know what it was really called but I remember having it on occasion from the Shoney’s buffet when Mom would take us on kid’s nights (single mom with a teenager and 2 young boys, gotta take those nights when you can find ’em!).

Watergate Salad

2 pkg Pistachio Pudding Mix
1 20-oz can Crushed Pineapple
5 oz (half a bag) Mini-Marshmallows
1 8-oz tub Whipped Topping

Gently drain the crushed pineapple–just whatever is on the top of the pineapple mush; too much liquid will make a soupy salad, not enough and you’ll have paste. Mix the pineapple and pudding mixes together, add in marshmallows then fold in whipped topping. Refrigerate a couple of hours to overnight. Top each portion with a maraschino cherry or some chopped walnuts.

Back then we just called it Fluff and it came in green and pink. I didn’t eat it all the time and, honestly, I won’t be making this too very often because whoa is it sweet! Still, it’s nice and fluffy and sugar-laden, perfect for a pot-luck or picnic. It’s fairly stable* considering there’s whipped topping and not milk involved, though you should do your best to keep it cold–wilting salads just aren’t cool.

Oh, man, that’s a really bad pun. But a really good salad.

I’ve got a cranberry-raspberry confection coming up next week but whose recipe will there be to test after that? Why not throw your recipe into the ring-mold and see what happens?

[*ETA: After 2 days in the fridge the marshmallows will start to become one with the fluff–don’t make this too far ahead if you like your mini-mallows a bite apart from the rest. Maybe this is why I never remembered there being marshmallows in the restaurant version?]



They are a hallmark of bygone days, incredibly retro and subject to some of the most odd flavor combinations and texture experiments ever born. Most consider them a novelty, at best, and something to be avoided at the family reunion at the very least.

I’m talking about the humble molded salad. Mixtures of reconstituted powder, canned fruit, whipped cream substitutes and who knows what else.

And I’m on a mission to find the good ones.

I’ve never been a huge fan of gelatin desserts but there was just something about the ones I had last month that really appealed to my taste buds.

  • They were sweet without being heavy.
  • The basic ingredients–gelatin, fruit, cream–aren’t inherently bad for you.
  • They are cold, perfect for the summer heat.

Oh, sure, there are some scary specimens out there. We’ve all seen them. Maybe even made some.

I tried to be inventive and use some of the things we had in our pantry to make my own version. We had cherry jell-o, canned fruit cocktail and a jar of marshmallow fluff (the latter leftover from a holiday project–honestly, I don’t usually keep these sorts of things around). I thought that the fluff would stand-in okay for the Cool Whip that seems to be a standard.

I thought wrong.

The fluff did not… mesh well with the gelatin. Oh, it tasted fine, but the texture was a bit off and the portion of the gelatin that I mixed with the fluff didn’t fully gel again, there was a bit of wateriness going on that made serving it with a slotted spoon a necessity.

There’s tons of these recipes on the ‘net–far too many for me to test and weed out the diamonds among the roughage–so I’d really love it if you’d point me in the direction of your favorites, the ones you’ve tried, your tricks with them. I’ll test the ones that seem the most promising and share my findings. This goes for the next month and a half–til the end of summer–but don’t wait. Even *I*, with my voracious sweet tooth, can only test so many options in the next 6 weeks!