Glazed Carrots

Well everyone, Christmas is only a handful of hours away. Pretty soon you’ll be spending time opening presents, singing carols, and doing your best to tolerate those family members that you absolutely cannot stand.

Perhaps this year you will be bringing your top secret mashed potatoes to dinner, or your award-winning deviled eggs, or even your patented fight-inducing egg nog.  There may be pots and pans simmering on your stove at this very moment.  This year, I will be bringing cranberry sauce, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole.  It seems every year I add another dish to my Christmas dinner repertoire.  Usually that decision comes after a revelation that I don’t like my mom’s (fill in the blank) and can’t believe I’ve been eating it for the past 30 years.

I always wondered when children decide to take over the Christmas dinner responsibilities from their parents.  I guess it’s when you have compiled a complete spread of recipes that exceeds the ones you’ve been eating for decades.  I will be there soon, apparently.

Today’s dish, just in time for your familial feast is Glazed Carrots.  This recipe comes from the Special Surprises section of the book.  This section has the most non-dessert, entree or side item-like dishes. We’ll see more of those in the New Year.  (We’ll also be getting to this recipe’s two alternate preparations: one for beets and one for yams!)

So, Kool-Aid and carrots.  What to say?  This is one of the few recipes I’ve made so far, where the Kool-Aid gets dominated by another flavor.  Here the carrots are obviously the most assertive.  Also, the salt and butter really cut the sweetness of the Kool-Aid, so what you’re left with is a weird mélange of carrot slices floating in a salty, sweetish, orangey translucent syrup.  Sounds enticing, right?  I’d love to say it works, but it doesn’t.  I’ve mentioned before that Orange is by far the most heinous of Kool-Aid flavors, and this dish is another reminder of that.  The medicine taste of the Orange Kool-Aid comes in at the end of the chew, and therefore is the last flavor you’re left thinking about.  It’s not a good flavor to end on.  You’re already going to have a bunch of horrible thoughts going through your head; you don’t need to add Orange Kool-Aid rage to that.

This year, if you are in need of a last second item to bring, say, if you absolutely hate preparing food and want to be sure you will not be asked to do so for future Christmases, then this is recipe for you.  Show up with these carrots, stain the tablecloth and everyone’s insides orange, and you can be sure you’re holiday cooking days are over.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas.

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Sour Cream Dip

After last week’s disastrous Fruit and Nut Cheese Ball, we are reluctantly returning to the Party Ideas section of the book.  You’d be so lucky to have guests return to your party that quickly after serving them that cheesy abomination.  This week we are going in for a recipe that could have very well been included in the Stir-ins and Pour-ons section.  I guess because it’s a dip, it gets an automatic pass to the party.  It’s Sour Cream Dip.  The name is surprisingly tame, I know.  It’s sour cream and Orange Kool-Aid.  Mixed together.  That’s it.

Last week I railed against Orange Kool-Aid.  Whatever was happening on a spiritual and molecular level when that Orange Kool-Aid mixed with that cream cheese was just not good at all.  They had differing agendas or ideologies or philosophies on foodballedness or something.  They did not play well together, and I was more than ready to write off Orange forever.

But having returned to my senses, I’m willing to entertain the idea that Orange my not be the worst Kool-Aid flavor.  May not.  A Twitter follower of mine recently offered up Watermelon as the worst flavor.  I haven’t had Watermelon (except in candy form), but I’d be really surprised if I liked it less than Orange.  Orange worked in the Hot Spiced Punch, and to a lesser degree, in the Hits-the-Spot Punch, though.  So maybe it has its merits.  Maybe.  But I digress.

This Sour Cream Dip works much better than our cheese ball.  Infinitely better, in fact.  The tanginess of the sour cream works to cancel out the medicine-ness of the Orange Kool-Aid.  It takes that harsh sharpness and smooths it out, as sour cream is wont to do.  The Orange flavor gets brought back down to optimal levels for normal human consumption.  The end result is a pretty decent dip for fruits.  The book recommends vegetables, too, but I dunno.  I didn’t try any veggies.  There’s no way they could work as well, right?

Whenever I make simple stuff like this I always wonder what other flavors could work as a dip.  Mango and Pineapple come to mind.  How about Sharkleberry Fin Dip?!  That’s a Pinterest pin if I’ve ever seen one.  But those experiments must be put off to a later day.  We’ve still got 47 more recipes to go!

Fruit and Nut Cheese Ball

Get your wide collars and bell bottoms ready everyone because today, we dive into the Party Ideas of the book for the first time.  And we do it with a cheese ball.  Yes, a cheese ball.  That oh so perfect encapsulation of pre-1980 shindigs.  At least in my mind anyway.

Now I’m certain people still make cheese balls and serve them to guests.  I bet there are some super gourmet fancypants ones on Pinterest (because there’s a super gourmet fancypants version of everything on Pinterest), but I can’t recall a specific time I’ve been in the presence of a cheese ball.  Cheese dips, sure.  Cheese plates, absolutely.  But not a cheese ball.  And I’m ok with that.

This Fruit and Nut Cheese Ball has been the worst thing I’ve made from Kool-Aid Comes of Age so far. First off, there is an unavoidable, fundamental problem.  Orange Kool-Aid is the worst Kool-Aid.  By far.  It’s too strong, too mediciney, and too gross.

Secondly, it’s a Fruit and Nut Cheese Ball.  Now sure, technically, a raisin is a fruit, but come on.  If I asked you to list one hundred fruits, you would never mention raisins.  Never.

Also, this was my first experience chopping raisins.  I’m sure I’m not the only person that has mistaken a raisin for an insect at some point in my life.  Well chopped raisins look even more ghastly.  I couldn’t stop thinking about crushed up cockroach bits.  Not what you want to be thinking about during your party prep.

Thirdly, this is the first thing from the book that I’ve made that has been ruined by the addition of Kool-Aid.  A mélange of cream cheese, raisins, and walnuts doesn’t sound too shabby on its own, am I right?  Maybe not the best combo, but I could take a swipe of that with a cracker, no problem.  But when you add the orange medicine powder, things just get unpalatable.  It doesn’t blend.  It doesn’t complement.  It just doesn’t work as a whole.

And lastly, who the hell wants to eat a lump of soft cheese that’s been rolled around and ballified in someone’s grubby, disgusting hands?  I made this myself, and I was grossed out by it.

No thank you, Fruit and Nut Cheese Ball.  Don’t expect an invitation to my next party.  Not now, not ever.

Seven-Layer Rainbow Loaf

Ahoy, Kool-Aid enthusiasts!  This week at the Cooking with Kool-Aid Project we dive into Kool-Aid Comes of Age to try a recipe from the Easy and Elegant Desserts section that is neither easy nor elegant.  It’s Seven-Layer Rainbow Loaf, a layered treat involving Kool-Aid, applesauce, graham crackers, and Dream Whip.  It’s my first loaf, guys!

First off, the words elegant and loaf have never been used so close to one another before.  As a rule, a loaf of any kind is not elegant.  This dessert certainly proves that rule.

Secondly, the authors of this book love to throw the word rainbow around even if it means you are only using one or two flavors of Kool-Aid.  Layered does not equal rainbow.

Thirdly, I do not know what this is.  Everything I’ve made since beginning this project has been based in food reality.  I’ve made drinks, pudding, and a pie.  I’ve used Kool-Aid as an agent to bring color and flavor to another food like cranberry sauce.  But I have never heard of the applesauce and graham cracker thing.  Do apples and graham crackers go together?  Is this a normal combination?  Have I missed out on a childhood classic? A few internet sites tell me it is a thing, so I guess I must capitulate.  Still doesn’t seem all that enticing flavorwise.

It also doesn’t work on a structural level.  Applesauce is wet.  Graham crackers are porous.  After a few minutes, I was left with a mound of multicolored mush covered in whipped cream substitute.  I picture my loaves having a little more backbone, but what do I know?  This is my first loaf after all.

One thing I do love about this dessert is the fact that’s it’s covered in Dream Whip.  Covering anything in whipped cream seems delightfully retro to me.  No one makes desserts like this anymore.  Every time I see a dessert slathered with whipped cream in a vintage cookbook, I always think it looks awesome, and hilarious.  Sadly, there is not photo of this dessert in Kool-Aid Comes of Age.  As with the Rainbow Ribbon Parfait, this makes me suspect that no one actually made this thing before putting it down on paper.

But enough of my pontificating.  How does it taste?  Not terrible.  The orange Kool-Aid dominates the strawberry completely, and then joins forces with the Dream Whip.  In the end it tastes a bit like an orange creamsicle.  With graham crackers.  All mashed into it.  Like you do.

Also, as the weeks progress, I am constantly surprised at how much sugar the authors of this book were able to cram into each recipe.  Case in point.  Not only does this recipe call for one entire cup of sugar-sweetened Kool-Aid, it also makes use of graham crackers, and applesauce, and Dream Whip. All products with pretty decent sugar contents, but then they ask that you toss in three tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar into the Dream Whip!  Why?!  What is happening?!  Three tablespoons of sugar?!  Just because?!  That’s lunacy.

All totaled, and if my calculations are correct, one Seven-Layer Rainbow Loaf contains 277 grams of sugar!  That’s 106 Hershey Kisses.  Or ten Snickers bars.  And I even used applesauce that had no additional sugar added!  It is overwhelmingly sweet.

What was happening in the 70s, you guys?  I know there was white powder everywhere, but I always assumed that was cocaine.  Perhaps I was incorrect.  Maybe it was just sugar.  Lots and lots of sugar.  Just like this loaf.  This elegant, elegant loaf.

Hot Spiced Punch

Hot Spiced Punch, from the Some Like It Hot section, is a slight variation on the can-this-really-be-called-a-recipe recipe for Hits-the-Spot Punch I made for the last post.

I opted for Orange Kool-Aid again because I thought it would work the best with cinnamon and cloves.

I find something very post-modern, or maybe existential, about seeing the beauty of natural ingredients like a cinnamon stick, cloves, and lemon slices floating in an artificial and violently orange batch of Kool-Aid.  It speaks to me somehow.  A comment on modern living, or societal evolution, or food trends throughout history, or God versus man.  I dunno.  It’s no upside-down urinal but there’s something to it.

This reminded me of the Honey Lemonade (which has been the best preparation so far).  Same use of cinnamon and cloves, but not as much of them.  The flavor is subtler, but the spices do work pretty well with the Orange.  I can’t see them meshing with Strawberry or Tropical Punch.  Maybe if Apple Kool-Aid had been around in 1976, then we’d have something grand.

Also, searching for the long out of print Apple Kool-Aid flavor leads to a zillion iPhone and Mac-bashing Google results for posts made by people who I’m sure think they are being very original with their condescension.  Jonestown was in 1978, let’s update those insults a bit, shall we?

Also, they’re just phones and computers, guys.  Calm the eff down.

Hits the Spot Punch

Today, I hit the road in search of a pitcher.  I decided I can’t be taking photographs of some generic straight-sided plastic monstrosity.  No soul there.  I needed one of those classic, curvy, glass numbers.  And the one I got is just that.  It’s pretty great.

I also picked up some punch glasses.  I can’t be serving my hot Kool-Aids in handle-less juice glasses.  You gotta have little handles.  Little handles class up any affair.

“Can I interest you in some hot Kool-Aid punch?  No?  How about some hot Kool-Aid punch in a glass with a little handle?  Ooh la la is right!  Here you go.”

So now I’m set for glassware.  Still might have to pick up a punch bowl, but that’s for another day.

Now, I have to admit I don’t get today’s recipe.

Hits the Spot Punch, from the Some Like It Hot section, is Kool-Aid served hot and sweeter than normal.  Yes.  Sweeter!  If you know your Kool-Aid, then you know normal preparation calls for one cup of sugar and two quarts of water (too sweet already).  This recipe decreases the water amount by a half of a quart.  Kind of a lot.

And tweaking your water content doesn’t exactly constitute a difference profound enough to be considered a different recipe.  Why not have a recipe with two and half quarts of water?  Three?  Two and seven-eighths?  The possibilities are literally endless.

Also, inverting the normal temperature of your product doesn’t make it a new recipe either.  For serious.  Is there another cookbook somewhere that has a recipe for hot apple pie and then, on a separate page, cold apple pie?  Grilled chicken breast, then refrigerated grilled chicken breast?  I don’t think so.

But I made it.  With Orange.  Not my favorite flavor but it was fine.  It was really sweet, hot Orange Kool-Aid.

Come on, anonymous Kool-Aid kitchen lab technicians from the past.  I’m sure you guys are good people.  You can do better than this.