When we first moved into our house we received a lot of catalogs and junk mail for the previous owners--a family with 3 little girls. In addition to kids clothing catalogs and double and triple copies of Lands End and Pottery Barn, we received a "magazine" called Kraft Food and Family. Basically, it's a glossy marketing piece from Kraft with recipes using Kraft products like Oreos, Jello, Cool-Whip, Philly cream cheese, etc. For my nephew's birthday I actually made one of the recipes and bought a tub of Cool-Whip for the first time in my life. The recipe was an easy ice cream cake made with layers of ice cream sandwiches (which I love) and a filling made from Jello chocolate pudding, cool-whip, hot fudge sauce, and crushed oreos (which I also love). The whole thing was covered with Cool-Whip as icing, and then as a special touch I coated the entire thing with chocolate jimmies. It was a hit on Tim's birthday (he's 5), but the Cool-Whip kind of grossed me out and the filling had a weird nougaty texture after a couple of days in the freezer.
I received another one of these Kraft Food and Family magazines this weekend and perused it before going grocery shopping on Sunday night. I saw a few recipes that looked interesting and so I bought the ingredients. I think it was the first time I bought Jello for something other than Jello shots in a very long time. Last night I made the first recipe for dinner. "Chinese Take-Out" Lemon Chicken. The ingredients were all pretty mundane for a stir fry--chicken, red pepper, green beans, chicken broth, garlic, corn starch--except for the 2 magic Kraft ingredients. Those magic ingredients? Zesty Italian salad dressing and....drumroll please...lemon Jello! Now, usually I shy away from cooking with artificial colors and artificial flavors, but I was really intrigued by putting Jello in a stir fry, so I tried it. I served it to D and asked him if he could guess the magic ingredient. He couldn't. Overall the recipe wasn't bad, but it was definitely too sweet, yellow, and artificial tasting for my liking. I think kids would probably dig it (and my brother-in-law Michael would probably dig it too). It did get me thinking though about making a General Tsao style chicken with orange jello...
When I was a kid my mom had the Campbell's Soup cookbook and some of the recipes in there became staples of my childhood--like pork chops and rice, beef stroganoff, and Swedish meatballs all made with cream of mushroom soup. I also really like the tuna noodle casserole my mom used to make occasionally (and, when dining services served it for lunch at Middlebury I always took a heaping helping), but I wasn't a big fan of the meatloaf with tomato soup sauce. Now, don't get me wrong and start thinking that my mom wasn't a good cook and so had to rely on these recipes--actually completely the opposite--but when you have to come up with dinner for your husband and kids every day for 21 years+ easy recipes that can be made from staples on hand are a real plus! Something tells me I'll be asking my mom for those recipes once I have kids--and maybe, just maybe, they'll get Jello chicken once in a while just for kicks!
There's a great website that features all of these "brand" recipes from the 40s-60s and it is so hysterically funny! Check it out: The Gallery of Regrettable Food. A few examples of the "cookbooks" on this site are below (click to link to the actual picture and hilarius descriptions).And, while you're looking at funny retro stuff, check out Stitchy McYarnpants for vintage knitting patterns with fabulous commentary (her first post is on vintage recipes right now, but scroll down to get to the knitting patterns).