Recipe: Berry Delicious Gelatin Salad

I grew up in the ’90s, when church potlucks and family gatherings never lacked an abundance of jello salads, packed with all sorts of fruits and marshmallows and Cool Whip held together with bright artificially colored and flavored (and all-so-not-artificially-sweetened) Jello.

Now, it seems that Jello has fallen out of favor, at least among my circles – and, in truth, I’m not generally a fan of the nutritional content of the “just-add-water” sweets we consumed as kids (jello, Koolaid, Tang, etc.)

But I do enjoy a good fruit-filled jello salad, and so I’ve tried to come up with ways to approximate the salads I grew up with – except without the uber-sweet, artificially-flavored Jello.

Enter Berry Delicious Gelatin Salad.

Berry Delicious Gelatin Salad

  • 1 envelope Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup grape juice, divided (you may also use 1/4 cup frozen grape juice concentrate and 3/4 cup water)
  • 1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries (frozen or fresh)

Place 1/2 cup of cold grape juice (or 1/4 cup frozen grape juice concentrate and 1/4 cup water) in a bowl (I always just use the rectangular Pyrex I serve the gelatin salad in). Sprinkle Knox gelatin over liquid and let sit 1-5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat other 1/2 cup of grape juice (or water, if you’re using grape juice concentrate) to boiling in microwave. Pour boiling juice or water into gelating mixture and mix until gelatin is all dissolved. Mix in blueberries and strawberries. Chill salad in refrigerator until set, generally 3 hours or more. Serve by itself or with freshly whipped cream.

Recipe makes 3 cups of jello – just enough for six half-cup servings. This can be multiplied without difficulty.

Recipe: Mother Wilder’s Baked Beans

Daniel had fond memories of his grandmother’s baked beans – but every time he had tried baked beans from a can or a restaurant, he was disappointed.

A wife has two options when faced with such a problem. She can see it as a challenge and set out to make some baked beans her husband will love – or she can assume she can never win and just opt to not make baked beans.

I chose the latter.

Until February of 2015 when I decided to cook my way through Farmer Boy for Barbara’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

Baked beans, cornbread, stir fry veggies, and peaches

I made baked beans using Mother Wilder’s technique – and Daniel liked them quite a lot.

Since then, with only a few modifications, I’ve been making them almost every month.

“In the pantry Mother was filling the six-quart pan with boiled beans, putting in onions and peppers and the piece of fat pork, and pouring scrolls of molasses over all. Then Almanzo saw her open the flour barrels. She flung rye flour and cornmeal into the big yellow crock, and stirred in milk and eggs and things, and poured the big baking-pan full of the yellow-gray rye’n’injun dough.

‘You fetch the rye’n’injun, Almanzo; don’t spill it,’ she said. She snatched up the pan of beans and Almanzo followed more slowly with the heavy pan of rye’n’injun. Father opened the big doors of the oven in the heater, and Mother slid the beans and the bread inside. They would slowly bake there, till Sunday dinner-time”


  • Ham bone with some meat still on bone
  • 8 oz dry Great Northern beans or navy beans
  • Water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 0.75 cups molasses
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.25 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke


  1. Stick ham bone and beans in crockpot. Cover with water and cook (on low or high, doesn’t matter which) until beans are soft (I usually start mine in the morning and let them cook on low until mid-afternoon – but you can do it on high in as little as four hours.)
  2. Beans, beans

  3. Remove beans from crockpot with slotted spoon. Place in a casserole (I use a 9″x9″ or 9″x13″ baking pan) along with onion, green pepper, and any ham you can pull from the bone and chop up (If I have extra, I sometimes add diced ham that didn’t get cooked with the beans.)
  4. Molasses plus garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke

  5. Mix together molasses, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and liquid smoke in a 1 cup liquid measure. Pour mixture over beans. Give one more good mix.
  6. Beans with onions and peppers and "scrolls of molasses"

  7. Bake at 350 (or 400 if that’s what your cornbread needs!) for 30-45 minutes or until just a bit crispy on top. Serve and enjoy!
  8. Baked beans, cornbread, and coleslaw

Recipe: The Best Ranch Dressing

When Daniel and I were first married, he affronted my frugality by declaring that he preferred refrigerator case ranch dressing to the off-brand off-the-shelf stuff I had been used to purchasing.

This was an affront because, not only did it cost about three times more, it also had a shorter shelf life (therefore increasing the probability that it would go bad in the fridge before we had a chance to use it all.)

So I began a quest to make a cheaper refrigerator case ranch dressing – that would still not be too much work.

This is what I’ve come up with…

Pour 2.5 cups buttermilk in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup.

Ranch dressing, step 1

Add mayonnaise to make 4 cups (that’d be 1.5 cups if you’re counting).

Ranch dressing, step 2

Add 6 tablespoons of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix.

Ranch dressing, step 3

Whisk together until smooth and then pour through a funnel into a 40 oz ketchup bottle. Refrigerate and use as desired.

Ranch dressing, step 4

(Do you struggle to get your ketchup jars clean? Try filling them half full with hot water and shaking up thoroughly immediately after finishing the bottle. Empty the bottle and pour in a little white vinegar to cut the red stuff out. Shake and empty. Shake again with hot soapy water then rinse. Voila!)

The Best Ranch Dressing

  • 2.5 cups buttermilk ($0.80)
  • 1.5 cups mayonnaise ($0.77)
  • 6 Tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix ($1.02)
  1. Pour buttermilk into 4-cup liquid measuring cup.
  2. Add mayonnaise to make 4 cups.
  3. Add ranch dressing mix.
  4. Whisk together until smooth and then pour through a funnel into a 40 oz ketchup bottle. Refrigerate and use as desired.

Prices listed are non-sale prices at my cheapest stores (Walmart for the buttermilk and mayo, Sam’s Club for the ranch dressing mix.) Ranch dressing mix frequently is eligible for “Instant Savings” at Sam’s Club, so my usual price is even lower. My entire recipe costs $2.59 for a little over 32 ounce – or $0.08/oz. Marzetti costs $4.98 at Walmart for a 24 ounce jar ($0.21/oz). Great Value brand non-refrigerated dressing (which is vastly inferior in taste) costs $0.06/oz. So I consider this quick recipe to be a real deal!