Jell-o Unscripted: the good, the really bad and the genius

jello fruit

When you’re as versatile a food construction agent as Jell-o and you’ve been around as long as Jell-o, you will have a rich and varied historical archive of potential recipe uses. Some of those uses are classic for all the right reasons. Some are not. In honor of all the Jell-o worthy spring events, we’re creating a highly subjective collection of the many faces of Jell-o: the good, the awful horrible bad and the genius.

The Good Jell-o

Strawberry poke cake, photo from Betty Crocker.

Poke Cake. Those of us who prefer eating simple with fresh ingredients cringe a little at a recipe that includes cake mix, Jell-o and Cool Whip. But it’s so tasty…and so easy. Extra points given to Team Betty Crocker for spearing their strawberry with a plastic cocktail saber.

strawberry pretzel salad
Jell-o strawberry pretzel/salad. Photo from Kraft.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad and/or Dessert. There are so many recipes for this unlikely combo out there that it’s almost needs it’s own website. This version is from the Jell-o mother planet. Feel free to try others. 

jello and fruit
Fruit suspended in Jell-o from at 1969 Good Housekeeping recipe book.

Jell-o with fruit. One of the reasons Jell-o remains such a favorite is that it is to the cook like paint is to the artist. You can mix it, you can mold it, you can texture it, you can add stuff to it and it will, as a rule behave in a predictable manner. Use refrigeration creatively to create layers, use glasses to make pretty parfaits (don’t pour hot jello into your pretty glassware, let it cool a bit), whip air into partially cooled Jell-o to get a cool bubbled texture…if you can dream it, you can probably do it. But there are some things that will make your vision fall apart, like adding the wrong fruit or adding too much liquid, so check out the link above for basic directions.

The Horrifyingly Bad Jell-o

jello ad
Jell-o with salad bits. From Huffington Post. With regrets.

My personal Jell-o horror was the salad my mom made with celery Jell-o (yes, it was a thing) filled with shredded carrots and celery. Three wrongs do not make a right, especially when what you think should be served is cherry Jell-o with big cherries floating in it. When celery Jell-o was confined to the dumpster of grocery history, she substituted lemon. That was even worse.

Although celery was the only flavor from the Jell-o house of horrors to cross our threshold, it was not the only savory flavor and here are the ads to prove it. 

It would be easy to go on and on here, because when Jell-o goes bad, it goes seriously bad. But Buzzfeed already put in the sweat, so easier just to read their post on Horrifying Retro Gelatin. Yes, some of their are not Jell-o based, some are plain gelatin, not branded packaged flavored gelatin. But I think it is entirely fair to paint Jell-o with a gelatin brush.

The Genius Jell-o

hello jello
Hello, Jell-o, the genius showcase of the Jello Mold Mistress.

If you feel like you want to dial up your Jell-0 artistry, spend some time with the Jello Mold Mistress of Brooklyn. We haven’t mentioned Jell-0 shots, but if you were looking for recipes for those and other incredible treats, you would find them in her book, Hello, Jell-o or on her blog.

And then there’s the world of 3D gelatin art. You know those beautiful glass paperweights with glass flowers suspended in a ball of glass…picture that. Then picture it made with gelatin and completely edible.

There are lots of sites that offer both instruction and supplies for this incredible food art. To get started, check out Gelatin Art Market and Art de Gelatin


gelatin cake
3D gelatin art wedding cake from Art de Gelatin.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

So go forward and congeal some spectacular desserts, salads or whatever strikes your fancy. If there is one mantra you should remember for Jell-o crafting, it’s this: Just because you can suspend it in Jell-o, it doesn’t mean you should.

What is your best Jell-o recipe? Or your most regrettable one? Share in the comments below!

Jell-O: the perfect Easter treat

jello cubes

Jell-O is the inspiration for the perfect Easter dessert or salad. Bright colors, light taste, easy to make and the perfect base on which to build a thousand creative taste sensations.

Did you know it’s been around since the late 1800’s? Jello was originally created by a husband and wife team who made and sold medicinal syrups. They didn’t do well marketing their new product and soon sold both the name and patented formula to a gentleman who knew just how to market this new invention. It was later bought by General Foods which became Kraft Foods and well, we all know what happened from there.  

Jell-O is still a popular treat today and can be used in lots of fun desserts and salads. No matter what the season, it’s the perfect food. Cool and soothing, it goes down easily and doesn’t feel heavy. Kids love it for the bright colors and vibrant flavors.

If you so happen to be stuck in a hospital for any length of time, you will be sure to see some turn up with a meal or two. It’s served in school cafeterias and restaurants alike and still brings a smile to most everyone’s face. As a low cost and easy to make dessert Jell-O can’t be beat.

Try this simple vintage 1950s Jell-o recipe below to bring some jewel toned tastiness to your Easter table. 

This fabulous Jell-O ad is from a 1956 Family Circle magazine

Pi Day 2017: make mine Margarita

pi shrine

pi day chartIf you made a Venn diagram of people who love math best and people who love pie best, today would be the day those two loves overlap. Happy π Day!

Credit for the creation of Pi Day rests with Larry Shaw, a physicist at the incredible San Francisco Exploratorium. In 1988, he organized a parade of sorts followed by pie. It caught on, as cool things often do. Today the Exploratorium celebrates the 30th Pi Day with free admission, a procession to the Pi Shrine and pie.

You can’t use Pi Day as an excuse to take the day off from work even though it is officially recognized by the US House of Representatives. But you can use it as a reason to eat pie, as if a reason to eat pie was needed. To assist with that, we’re digging into the Vintage Unscripted recipe inspiration file…and coming out with two tasty lime pastries from That Lively Lime Twist, a 1983 recipe leaflet from Borden. The Margarita Pie with a pretzel crust is definitely unscripted. Although the recipe calls for tequila and triple sec, it would probably be fine without the first and with a bit of orange extract subbed in as the second. As for the Key Lime Pie recipe, there are hundreds of them out there, but this one is fast and simple.

lime pie recipes


Super Bowl snacks they’ll never see coming

shrimp on parade

Are you a Super Bowl snack traditionalist or innovator? Do you like the same thing every year or do you  strike out in new directions? We’re here to help. We reached into annals of snack history and found some toothsome morsels to delight your palate and amuse your bouche. They aren’t the kind of snacks you might think of today in the Golden Age of Guac* and Nachos, but that there’s something to be said for being unscripted and unexpected. (One guacamole recipe below for good measure.)

From the I Wish I Could Cook comb binding cookbook published by a group of New England Telephone employees in the 1970s. 

Crabbies recipe

How can you go wrong with any appetizer that specifies LIQUEFY in all caps. These recipes come from the Osterizer Blender Spin Cookery Cookbook from 1970, the year the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl IV.

Good Housekeeping’s Appetizer Book from 1958 has some interesting choices for you. Planetary Frankfurters? Enthusiam for the Mercury Space program perhaps had spread to the appetizer world. Also, something you don’t see on the ingredient list of a recipe nowadays, Meat Roll-Ups suggest adding monosodium glutamate to the filling. 

appetizer recipes

  Again from this little recipe booklet from Good Housekeeping, these tiny fast to make little nuggets of tasty in flavor combinations that are kind of surprising and yet somehow intriguing.

nibbles recipes

And finally, because presentation is everything, Shrimp on Parade. The amount of time and effort put into spearing shrimp and delicately balancing them in all sorts of places on this basket is well worth the time. The effect is quite astonishing.

shrimp on parade

A Thanksgiving Favorite Almost Lost To History

Old Sturbridge Village


I spent many years as an educator at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts. It shows New England life in a rural town in the 1830’s and is open year round. At that time, Thanksgiving Day was set  by the Governor of each state. It was not declared a National Holiday until Abraham Lincoln’s presidency in the dark days of the Civil War. 

Imagine the baking and preparations that were made to get ready for this most important day! Old and young alike had thoughts about the marvelous and rich Marlborough Pie that was only made a few times of year. The recipe is very old and came over from England and like most, was subject to changes as each baker thought HER recipe was the best. It is very sad to have had it go out of favor and for reasons unknown. I would call this a lemon apple custard and it is so rich that a very small slice will do very nicely.

Google search “Marlborough Pudding” to get recipes and more history. I loved sippitysup’s blog about it and thank him for the use of his image.

 The following recipe was the one we used in the kitchens at Old Sturbridge Village. It is given to you with their hearty wishes for a Good Thanksgiving and the hopes that you will come to visit a this New England historical treasure.

Marlborough Pudding

One of our most requested recipes is this one for Marlborough Pudding, which is reproduced here for your own enjoyment and taken from Amelia Simmons’ “American Cookery” (1796).

Original Recipe

Take 12 spoons of stewed apples, 12 of wine, 12 of sugar, 12 of melted butter, and 12 of beaten eggs, a little cream, spice to your taste; lay in paste No. 3, in a deep dish; bake one hour and a quarter.

Modern Adaptation

6 tablespoons butter
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup stewed, pureed apples
3/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1/2 recipe for pie crust
2 teaspoon grated nutmeg (or to taste)

1. Melt butter and set aside to cool.
2. Squeeze lemon and remove seeds.
3. Add lemon to stewed apples, sherry, cream, and sugar and mix well.
4. Add melted butter to mixture, blending well.
5. Beat eggs and add to mixture.
6. Prepare pastry and line deep, 8-inch pie plate.
7. Season with grated nutmeg and spoon mixture into prepared pie plate.
8. Bake 15 minutes at 400°F. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 45 minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Hearth Method

1. Using a redware bowl over hot coals, melt the butter and set aside to cool.
2. Follow Steps 2-7 in the Modern Method recipe.
3. Bake 1 hour in hot bake-oven, or preheated Dutch oven, with coals on lid and below.

Yield: one 8-inch deep dish pie



A is for Applesauce, T is for Turkey

turkeyWhat Thanksgiving table would be complete without a delicious bowl of homemade applesauce? Not a single one, according to my nephew. I started making applesauce for him when he was just a baby and now it is a requested special every year.

Easy to make and let simmer while you fix other goodies to go along with the meal and easy to increase and adjust the quantity. Sounds like the perfect recipe! And the aroma – well your house will just smell it’s cinnamon-y best!


Wait! First you must obtain the apples from your local farm stand or market. How about a ….

Primer in choosing apples

Choose richly colored fruit with smooth skin that is firm to the touch.

The apple should feel heavy for its size.

Avoid fruit that is soft, or has brown around the stem or base and no holes please.

Oh yes, apples with the stem on are the best!

Now, get your apron on and grab a heavy pot and let’s get at it!


Applesauce Recipe

6 – 8 Apples * 

1 cup of water

1 TBSP lemon

1/3 cup light brown sugar **

2 TBSP granulated sugar **

1 tsp cinnamon

Dash of nutmeg

*Note – I use a variety of apples depending on what is available or looks good at the time. Usually Fuji and Golden Delicious but sometimes McIntosh or Rome. (softer varieties cook down quicker)

**Note – the amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of the apples. Please adjust to your own taste.

Core and peel apples and chop into approximately ½” pieces (the smaller the pieces the quicker this cooks). Place in large pot along with the water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Add in the remaining ingredients and cover. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on and stir occasionally. Add more water if needed. When apples begin to get tender you may mash them with a potato masher. We like chunky applesauce and this is the only mashing I do. If you like smoother applesauce you may wish to puree it with a stick blender.

Cool, place in airtight container and refrigerate.




Quick and Easy Happy Halloween Treats

Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees,
‘Tonight is Halloween!’  ~ Dexter Kozen

Halloween is the night for tricks and treats! Take a break from all the candy, and create these fun and tasty treats for your family!

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Ice Cream

pumpkinicecreamWhat You Will Need:

  • 1/2 gallon Vanilla Ice Cream, softened
  • 1 can 100% Canned Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon Orange Juice
  • 1 Large Bowl
  • 1 Medium Bowl
  • Mixer (vintage, of course!)
  • Vintage Glass Refrigerator Dish (optional, but delightful)

What You Do:

  1. Place ice cream in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix canned pumpkin, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange juice with a mixer on low speed.
  3. Blend pumpkin mixture into ice cream, stirring well (it’s okay to lick the spoon when you are done – LOL)
  4. Cover mixture and freeze for several hours until firm. TIP: Place your prepared mixture into a vintage glass refrigerator dish – it makes the ice cream look even better when it’s ready to be served.
  5. When you are ready to serve, let the ice cream soften slightly before scooping and serving. Enjoy!


  • Serve your ice cream in a pumpkin glass! Click this link for a quick and simple way to convert a vintage glass into a pumpkin!
  • Serve your sweet pumpkin ice cream with a slice of pumpkin bread.
  • If desired, sprinkle a small amount of nutmeg, pumpkin seeds, or colorful Halloween sprinkles over the ice cream before serving.
  • TIP: If you use pumpkin pie filling (which usually already has spices added), make sure to adjust the spices in this recipe to taste.

Candy Corn Trifles

candycornWhat You Will Need:

  • Angel Food Cake (store-bought or homemade)
  • Prepared Vanilla Pudding (plus milk needed to prepare)
  • Orange Food Coloring (mix red and yellow food coloring if needed)
  • Prepared Lemon Jell-O
  • Clear Vintage Trifle Bowl

What You Do:

  1. Crumble the angel food cake into the bottom of a clear glass serving bowl. This forms the white layer found on a piece of candy corn.
  2. Layer prepared vanilla pudding, tinted orange with food coloring, on top of the cake layer. This forms the orange portion of a piece of candy corn.
  3. Top the orange pudding layer with a layer of prepared lemon gelatin. This forms the yellow layer of the candy corn.
  4. Serve and enjoy!


  • There are many ways you can easily vary this cute and delicious recipe. For example, use a yellow cake recipe to form the cake layer – this will be the yellow layer of candy corn. Top the cake layer with orange-tinted vanilla pudding – the orange layer. Then top the treat off with a layer of whipped cream – the white layer. Embellish with a piece of real candy corn!

One pot corned beef dinner – compliments of mom…..

corned beef and cabbage
Corned Beef Brisket With Cabbage and Potatoes
Serves 6
A delicious one pot meal!
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  1. 1 large corned beef brisket (approx. 3 lbs)
  2. Cold water
  3. 6 medium-sized potatoes
  4. 1 head cabbage
  1. Put beef in a large dutch oven and cover with cold water.
  2. Place lid on pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. (*) Reduce heat to medium and cook 2 1/2 hours, or until beef is almost tender.
  4. Scrub potatoes and remove any eyes. Cut cabbage into sixths.
  5. Put cabbage and potatoes in dutch oven with beef.
  6. Bring to boiling and cook, covered, 1 hour longer, or until meat is tender.
  1. (*)Most of the briskets available now come with a seasoning packet – use as much or as little as you like but be sure to add it at the beginning of the recipe.
  2. This recipe can be adapted to cooking in a pressure cooker by adjusting the cooking time for the meat and adding the veggies after the meat is done.
  3. Optional add in.... carrots, celery, peppers.
Vintage Unscripted

In celebration of Oktoberfest: Liverwurst Pâté

liverwurst pate

liverwurst pate

This recipe came from a co-worker in the 80’s.  We use to beg his wife to make it.  So good!!

1 lb. liverwurst (Braunschweiger) 

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 T dill pickle juice

1 t worchestershire sauce

1/4 t garlic salt

8 oz pkg of cream cheese (room temperature)

1/3 cup chopped dill pickle

1/4 cup finely chopped onion


Mash liverwurst with fork to make smooth, add mayo, pickle juice, worcestershire sauce, garlic salt and 1/3 of cream cheese. Blend until smooth. (I use my mixer)

making liverwurst pate

Stir in pickles and onions. Line a loaf pan with saran wrap and pack mixture firmly in and chill several hours. Invert onto a plate and coat with remaining cream cheese. (I don’t do this, I put it in a bowl and chill.  I do not use the remaining 2/3 cream cheese.) 

Spread on Ritz crackers, tea breads, etc.  Will keep for a week refrigerated.  

Tastes Like Autumn in New England – Boiled Cider Syrup

cider sign
A great Old Sign from Pease Orchard in Templeton
A Great Old Sign from Pease Orchard in Templeton

Central Massachusetts is known for its apple orchards. Famous orchardist, Johnny Appleseed aka John Chapman was born in nearby Leominster in 1774. In late September when the days are warm and the nights are cool, apples are ready for harvesting to eat and for the cider press. I love going for a ride to a local orchard to get some apples and cider and also do a little antiquing as well.  

Several years ago we purchased some boiled cider syrup and were amazed at the flavor and color. In 19th century New England, boiling cider down in order to preserve it was a necessity and seems to have lost favor to today’s hard cider making, but we’d love to see it come back in to use. It is so very simple to do and it keeps almost indefinitely in the fridge if it doesn’t get used up! Give as gifts to foodies, make BBQ sauce, glaze a ham, make apple granola with it instead of honey, drizzle on apple pancakes, jazz up some caramel apple bread pudding.  It’s natural, sweet and a lovely color.

The process is so simple. Boil one gallon of fresh apple cider down to two cups. Yes. It is that easy.

Get your cider and apples from a local orchard, farm stand or the farmers' market
Get your cider and apples from a local orchard, farm stand or the farmers market


the equipment you need
The equipment you need

Use a non reactive pan (stainless steel or enameled pan), a wooden or stainless spoon and a two cup glass measuring cup.

Do not boil on a high temperature. You don’t want this to scorch. Remove any scum that might bubble up to the surface. 

Keep a very careful eye on it when it reaches the 3 cup measure and the check volume every 10 minutes or so until it reduces to 2 cups.

Wouldn't this make a great gift for your favorite foodie?
Wouldn’t this make a great gift for your favorite foodie?

Pour the 2 cups into a canning jar or flat bottles that are squeaky clean and fresh and hot from the dishwasher. Save your bottles and caps from maple syrup, they’re great for boiled cider syrup. Store tightly sealed in the fridge.

cider and cider donut
Fresh cider and a cinnamon donut-a perfect snack

Some bonus tips: This is a wonderful process that takes hours so plan to stay home and bake something or make soup. We have done this on our wood stove at our old house with great success. Get gallons of apple cider when it’s fresh, remove some volume and freeze it in the jug to boil down in the winter because you will want to make more.

aunthattiesattic on etsy
aunthattiesattic on etsy
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