If you’re “of a certain age”, you remember how much fun Jell-O used to be when you were growing up.
Baby Boomers experienced Jell-O at the height of its popularity – when young mothers were first being introduced to the joy and convenience of TV dinners and canned and packaged foods. Jell-O was a novelty, something fast and fun. Women impressed their family and friends (or at least confounded them) by making “Jell-O Salads” and “Jell-O Molds” consisting of fruit, vegetables, cottage cheese, or even meats like ham and shrimp suspended inside a block of red, green, or yellow wiggly, jiggly stuff.
OK, so maybe Jell-O wasn’t that much fun for the Baby Boomers.
For us Gen-Xers, it was different. Jell-O was an extremely cheap, fast, and easy dessert that, because of the fruit flavors, our parents mistakenly thought was good for us. (To be fair, Daddy did sometimes mix in a little fruit before topping it off with Cool Whip.) But with that nice Bill Cosby/Dr. Huxtable the ongoing Jell-O spokesperson since 1974 – and photos of creative Jell-O holiday desserts on the covers of Woman’s Day and Family Circle – it’s no wonder our parents were confused! Even Char-Meck school cafeterias served Jell-O as one of the two side item “fruit or veggie” choices.
Gen X was truly the Jell-O generation. We loved those Jell-O Jigglers and The Cosby Show and it was small wonder when we were old enough to hit the bars we embraced Jell-O shots.
And then … ugh. An ugly dose of reality.
Not only is Jell-O almost completely nutritionally valueless, it’s made from the skin, connective tissue, hooves, and bones of animals. How can something so fun – be so gross?
And that nice Mr. Bill Cosby? Well, let’s just say he’s not quite the nice man we all thought he was.
And just like that – childhood memories are tarnished.
Adulting is hard.
But I’m here to help you take a few of those happy memories back.
Enter Bakol Jel Dessert. Certified Vegan, certified Gluten-Free, non-GMO, Kosher Parve, no artificial flavors or colors (the Strawberry flavor I used here gets its color from beets). It tastes and jiggles almost exactly like Jell-O. It also behaves like Jell-O – the same fruits float, the same fruits sink. Preparation is the same – boil water, stir in powdered jel, pour, chill. And yes, it works just fine for jello shooters.
In memory of those long-ago childhood Fourth-of-Julys filled with running barefoot, catching fireflies, watching fireworks, getting “et alive by mosquitoes,” and eating wiggly, jiggly desserts – here’s a vegan, gluten free Patriotic Parfait. Enjoy and reclaim a tiny piece of your childhood.
Ingredients for Patriotic Parfaits (Serves Four)
One box Bakol Jel Dessert (I used Strawberry; Raspberry or Cherry would also work)
Two Cups Water
6 Strawberries, cored and halved (or raspberries or cherries – match the flavor of your jel!)
Vegan Whipped Cream (I used So Delicious Coco Whip)*
1 cup Blueberries
Four 8-9 oz. Glasses or Plastic Cups
Directions for Patriotic Parfaits:
Prep your strawberries and bring to room temperature. Drop three strawberry halves into the glasses or cups.
Boil 2 cups water and pour into a mixing bowl. Slowly empty packet of Bakol Jel into hot water, stirring constantly. Once well blended, pour into the glasses or cups.
Refrigerate 4 hours (refrigerating longer won’t hurt).
Before serving, top with vegan whipped cream and 1/4 cup of blueberries.
Bakol Jel is becoming very popular and widespread these days – in Charlotte, you can find several flavors at most Harris Teeters, in addition to Earth Fare and Whole Foods. It’s also sold online at Amazon.
I used So Delicious Coco Whip as my vegan whipped cream, which works well with fruit because of the very slight coconut-y taste. In Charlotte, you can find it at Earth Fare and Whole Foods. There are also some other brands of vegan whipped cream. (Please note Coco Whip is gluten-free; other brands might not be.) If you can’t find vegan whipped cream, you can try sweetened So Delicious Coconut Yogurt, or Jell-O Vanilla Pudding. (Ironically, most flavors of Jell-O pudding are “accidentally vegan.”)
What about agar agar? Personally, I have found that frustrating to use and, given the rarity I want to make a gel dessert, I’ll choose Bakol Jel because it’s just so much easier.
Making this for kids? Be aware some kids have “sensory issues” and might prefer the jel plain, without fruit suspended in it.
Making this for adults? Boil only 1 cup water and mix with the powder. Then add 1/2 cup cold water and 1/2 cup vodka for “jel shooters.” (You may want to use smaller parfait glasses.)
Finally – I have no affiliation with Bakol Jel or So Delicious; I’ve received no money, nor free products. I’m just curious about vegan products and I love creating vegan versions of the foods I ate growing up.