Tonawanda News

April 22, 2013

CURIOUS CULINARIAN: Jiggly snack is a blast from the past

By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News

— It’s happened to the best of us.

All of a sudden, you realize that you promised to send a treat to school with your kids the next day. Or take something to a party. Or even just told your family that you’d do something together in the kitchen, forgetting that, as usual, there are 50 other things that also have to done.

So ... what’s fast? What’s easy? And what might only take an ingredient or too?

And here’s the confession: This happened to me last week. I was looking through my calendar here at the Tonawanda News newsroom and there it was: Food column due today.

Oops. I had planned to write about my first foray into French toast, but that had been delayed by family events. I moved the brunch plans back a week, but completely forget about the column. What’s a writer to do?

I was running down the list of things in my pantry amidst the panicked realization that I didn’t have much time that evening, as usual. Kids’ events, domestic chores ... when was I going to get the chance to do something?

I’m not sure what brought it to mind — maybe the brief thought of crisped rice cereal treats, which are nothing if not quick and easy — but I suddenly thought of a childhood treat, the sort of thing I always asked my mom to make for my school birthday snack.

We called them “Knox Blox,” after the most prominent brand of unflavored gelatin out there, but the ingredients are about as simple and generic as you can get. Gelatin, unflavored and/or flavored. Juice or water. Maybe a tiny touch of sweetener. They were totally the coolest homemade snack out there back in early elementary school ... but since I’d been a parent, I’d never even thought of them.

Dr. Google reminded me of the steps, although I’d never realized there were two variants, one with flavored gelatin for taste, one with juice. We opted to try both. The boys chose orange for the flavored gelatin sort; we went with apple for the juice variety because that’s what we had in the house (and honey as sweetener for something just a little different).

They were just as I remembered.

These things are easy. They’re incredibly kid-friendly. (Especially if you don’t mind a little playing with your food.) They’re fat-free. And in the case of the juice variant, they’re completely natural.

The boys were annoyed a little that they didn’t get to help more. (If I’m slinging boiling water or juice around the kitchen, I required them to be on the other side of the hallway.) However, the finished product fascinated them.

It’s food you can see through! You can pick it up! And it WIGGLES. How cool is that?

Juice blocks

4 cups juice, divided

4 envelopes (not boxes) unflavored gelatin

1-2 tablespoons sugar or honey, optional

Pour one cup of cold juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin powder over it; let gel.

Bring three cups of juice to a boil. Pour over gelatin mixture and stir until completely dissolved. Stir in sweetener if desired.

Pour into 13-inch-by-9-inch pan, preferably glass. Let sit at least three hours in the refrigerator or until set. Cut into squares.

Gelatin blocks

3 3-ounce boxes flavored gelatin

4 envelopes (not boxes) unflavored gelatin

4 cups water

Mix flavored and unflavored gelatin in a bowl.

Bring water to a boil. Pour into bowl with gelatin; stir until mixed.

Pour into 13-inch-by-9-inch pan, preferably glass. Let sit at least three hours in the refrigerator or until set. Cut into squares.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.