Here's to JELL-O

An American Staple

Raspberry Jell-O with fresh raspberries on the side.

Diana Miller / StockFood Creative / Getty Images

JELL-O Brand Gelatin, the over 100-year-old American favorite, is one of the most versatile desserts. Not only is it good plain, but it can take many forms. There are cakes and pies made with JELL-O. Cookies, parfaits, salads, and even snacks can be made with it, too. Before making some of the various recipes, here are the basics of gelatin.

Basic Directions for a 3-Ounce Package

Stir 1 cup boiling water into gelatin in a medium bowl for at least 2 minutes until completely set. Stir in 1 cup cold water. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. (Ever have a hard time getting your gelatin to set? We can almost guarantee that you didn't stir for the entire 2 minutes.)

Speed-Set Directions for a 3-Ounce Package

Stir 3/4 cup boiling water into gelatin in a medium bowl at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Mix 1/2 cup cold water and ice cubes to make 1 1/4 cups. Add to gelatin, stirring until slightly thickened. Remove any remaining ice. Refrigerate 30 minutes for a soft-set or 1 1/2 hours until firm. (I put my cold water in a 2 or 4 cup measuring cup. It goes in the refrigerator until I've dissolved the gelatin. Then I add my ice to make the water rise to the 1 1/4 cup line.)

To Add Fruit

Refrigerate gelatin 1 1/2 hours or until thickened. Stir in 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups chopped fruit. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. (If using canned fruit make sure it is well-drained. Don't use any acidic fruit such as fresh pineapple or kiwis.)

To Unmold Gelatin

Gently loosen the gelatin from the sides of the mold. Dip mold in warm water for about 15 seconds. Remove mold from water and shake. Place moistened serving plate over mold. Invert and gently shake to remove gelatin. Remove mold and center gelatin on a plate.

Jazz-Up Your Gelatin

Substitute flavored sodas for the cold water portion of the recipe. Using apple juice will add vitamins and extra flavor. Other juices may also be used, but if they are too acidic the gelatin may not set properly.

Gelatin Is Great for Dieters, Too

There are so many varieties of sugar-free gelatin that no dieter has to feel deprived. Do the above soda, cold water substitution with a diet brand, and there will be a flavor blast. Don't forget whipped toppings come in fat-free and low-fat versions.