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Does Aunt Bethany's green Jell-O® mold with bits of cat food in it on "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" make you turn up your nose to gelatin salads? Well, most gelatin salads aren't filled with pet food but rather various fruits, vegetables, nuts, marshmallows, whipped topping, pretzels and more.

Jell-O® has a long standing history, stemming back to the late 1800's. Flavorings and sugar were added to powdered gelatin, creating the first trade-marked dessert. By the 1930's, gelatin salads were a mainstream dish. When creating gelatin dishes, wait to add fruits or vegetables until gelatin is thick but not set so that they will suspend evenly and not float or sink. Other liquids can be used in place of water to dissolve gelatin, including fruit and vegetable juices, wine or milk. However, if using milk or cream, the gelatin will likely take twice as long to set.

Too much sugar in the recipe can weaken or inhibit the gel so never add more than the recipe states. Likewise, an enzyme called bromelain, found in fresh or frozen pineapple, kiwi, and papaya can cause the gelatin to break. Use only canned versions, since the enzyme is deactivated during cooking. Instead of serving a standard cranberry sauce this holiday season, try it in a gelatin salad and keep this wiggly-wobbly novelty alive!


Cranberry Gelatin Salad

1 (10.5 oz.) can crushed pineapple, packed in juice

2 cups water

1 (0.3 oz.) box sugar-free cherry gelatin

1 (16 oz.) can jellied cranberry sauce

1 (16.5 oz.) can pitted dark sweet cherries, drained and chopped into pieces

1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Drain pineapple and reserve liquid. In a medium saucepan, boil water and reserved pineapple juice. Stir in gelatin until dissolved. Reduce heat to medium low and add cranberry sauce; stir until melted. Pour into 9x13-inch pan and refrigerate until thick but not set. Stir in drained cherries, pineapple and nuts. Refrigerate until firm.

Yield: 12 servings

Nutritional analysis per serving (without nuts): 100 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 35 milligrams sodium, 26 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram protein