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Is there an age at which one grows out of eating Jell-O? That cool, wobbly, melt-in-your-mouth childhood treat, neon green or electric orange, often fades into nostalgia as we grow up, only to be revisited during hospital stays or via boozy jellified shots. But gelatin is an ingredient with a long and illustrious history, and I personally am a little obsessed with how a cool dish of jelly can be the perfect warm-weather treat. It just needs to grow up a little bit.
One of the simplest ways to modernize a classic Jell-O dish is to make it from scratch. You can make a cool dish of homemade, from-scratch Jell-O by simply melting plain gelatin into any variety of fruit juice. So easy and, dare I say … good for you? This is the kind of Jell-O my kids know now: orange juice gelled up and fun to eat, or apple juice made into jiggly cut-outs. You can even gel cold coffee for a different (and morning-friendly) Jell-O shot.
Another lovely way to eat Jell-O is by getting a little creative with what we gel up. I am a huge fan of creamy jellies, like the yogurt jelly in the Beach Glass Jelly Squares — these are a riff on a very retro Jell-O recipe — the stained glass (or broken glass) Jell-O squares. These are lighter, more refreshing, and barely sweet — a perfect hot-weather treat, and gorgeous, too.
Last but not least, gelatin gives us a really easy and low-effort way to make a type of pudding, which I think is criminally undervalued these days. This type of pudding is charmingly monikered “fluff,” and who doesn’t need a dessert in their lives called Nutella Fluff? Since gelatin barely needs cooking (it’s melted over very low heat) this method of creating a creamy gelatin with Nutella and milk, then whipping that with whipped cream, means a frothy, playful, and always-welcome no-heat dessert.