I have to admit, Tom and I started out this week’s Mid-Century Menu test very disappointed. You see, this special Valentine’s dinner was supposed to really be heart-y. And by that, I mean it was literally supposed to have a beef heart in it.

Sadly, our local butcher shop, after having come through like champs for us when we needed cow tongue and salt pork, failed us this week. When Tom went in to get a two-pound beef heart, (no more organ meat on the floor of MY car, I can tell you that right now) he actually stumped our butchers. Oh, they can order it for us, they said, but it would take a week or two to get here. But by then the wonderful horribleness of being able to have a Valentine’s Recipe with an actual, blood-pumping heart in it would be long done and gone, so we decided to pass on ordering our two-pound love muscle and just make something comforting for this week’s Valentine’s Menu.

And by “comforting” I of course mean Jell-O with canned fruit cocktail in it.

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Ah. See? Now I feel all better.

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I have to admit the first time I saw the cover of this cookbook, my heart started beating faster. (See, I knew we could work in a heart somehow!) My palms got a little sweaty and I got butterflies in my stomach. From the oversized, “A Christmas Story” style fruit basket in the corner to the little, winking pimento eyes of those bacon-wrapped olives, everything about this cover told me that I was in for a heck of a mid-century holiday visual feast.

And it truly did not disappoint.

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This is a frozen Jell-O salad with mayo and canned fruit cocktail in it.

It’s not a real heart, but it’ll do, Pig. It’ll do. 

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But I did make two small changes to this week’s recipe, which I don’t normally do.

The first is that I didn’t have enough fruit cocktail, so I put in extra cherries.

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It’s actually kind of a funny story. Not like the whole “butcher shop doesn’t have a heart” story above, which is just sad. No, this one is funnier because it involves Tom and me not communicating clearly.

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So, when the plans to obtain bovine heart went awry, I had to come up with a new Valentine’s Mid-Century Menu plan, fast. I emailed Tom a list of supplies to pick up on his way home from work, including a notation to bring back “3 cups of fruit cocktail”.

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When he got home he unpacked the new groceries and plopped into my hand a package of individually packaged, single serving fruit cocktail cups.

“Wait,” I said.

“What?” He set a roll of paper towels on the countertop.

“What is this?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t ask me. You said you wanted three cups of fruit cocktail.”

Ba-dum-bum-ching.

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The other small change is, since I was now the proud owner of fruit cocktail “cups”, I didn’t have a big can to mold my salad in. So I went crazy and jammed it into a Jell-O mold I’ve been meaning to use for a while.

Isn’t it glorious?

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I even got to stuff the center with miniature marshmallows.

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I know, there are a lot of shots of this thing. But in my defense, I am actually really proud of it.

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But you can’t just be proud of something because it’s pretty. You have to be proud of what’s on the inside, too.

Which is more marshmallows.

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He is suspiciously sniffing it.

“Why does this smell like orange juice?”

I honestly had no answer for that one.

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“Tastes like salad bar goo.”

I put down the camera and looked at him. “What?”

“It tastes like that pink, gooey gelatin salad that was always in the all-you-can-eat salad bars when I was a kid. You know, the salad you would take so that you didn’t have to take lettuce.”

“Where did you eat as a kid?’

“Dunno. Ponderosa?”

The Verdict: Despite the glorious looks of this thing, it is totally a salad and not a dessert. Non-descript rounds were probably the way to go with this thing. It tasted thick and rich, like lemon and whipped cream and mayonnaise, if that makes any sense. Not bad, but not overly sweet. Would be a great, edible showstopper salad for a mid-century dinner party.

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