Mormons Eat What? A Mormon Potluck Sampler with Recipes

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Four Mormon women are finalists in the 2013 Pillsbury Bake-Off (in November, in Las Vegas).  One is from Arizona (Melissa Stadler — Chorizo Potato Puffy Tacos), one is from Texas (Juliann Pelton — Spicy Chicken Pizza Roll Up), one is from California (Kalani Allred — Balsamic Chicken Cranberry Panzanella), and one is from Utah (Vincy Stringham — Potato and Ham Mini Frittatas).  These sound like incredibly delicious dishes, and the rules for the Bake-Off are perfectly suited for busy Mormon moms — 7 ingredients and a half hour of prep time in most cases.  (Click here for recipes and more news about these amazing women.)

Mormon moms are cooking all the time.  It seems like every child who comes into a family brings his or her own individual tastes along.  We were a family of eight, and no matter what I dished up, someone would cry out, “YUCK.”  My friend Kassie actually family-tested all her recipes and came up with seven that everyone would eat.  She rotates them through the week.

In addition to pleasing finicky eaters at home, we are room mothers at school, Scout leaders, Young Women advisors, and camp directors.  We bring food to umpteen potluck dinners every year for church activities, host holiday meals for our extended families, take food into the sick, and provide luncheons for funerals.  At least in America (favorites in Asia always include rice noodles and chilies), certain dishes have become au rigeur for Mormon get-togethers.  They are pure Americana, but that has to include Tex-Mex, and Mock Italian.

Ubiquitous Jell-O

In August of 2012 Slate Magazine published an article called “Mormonism’s Jell-O Mold.”  The image at the top of the article is one of the coveted “green Jell-O pin” from Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.  The article is by Christy Spackman, who grew up Mormon in Utah eating pie, fudge, zucchini, potatoes, and homemade bread, but not so much Jell-O.  Spackman explains that the tendency of Mormons to invent a new Jell-O dish every week is very recent, as a 1969 New York Times article on Mormon foods contains no mention of the dessert, and as late as 1988, Jell-O was associated with other foodies outside Mormondom.  Spackman credits Jell-O’s success with Mormons to the invention of Jell-O Jigglers (add more gelatin and less liquid, and you can eat Jell-O pieces like candy) and the publicity campaign that equated Jell-O consumption with happy families.

Mormon Jell-O connoisseurs have come up with all sorts of yummy salad and dessert recipes, and have recently fixated on Jell-O pretzel dessert!  See below:

Raspberry Pretzel Jell-O Recipe:
Small package Raspberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
2 cups pretzels
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter (1/2 Cup)
1 (8oz) package cream cheese – softened
1 (8oz) package Cool Whip – thawed
1 cup sugar
1 bag frozen raspberries – thawed in refrigerator

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Combine packet of Jell-O with 2 cups of boiling water and set aside to cool to room temperature.  Crush 2 cups of pretzels. Melt 1 stick of butter in saucepan and add 1/4 cup sugar. Add pretzels and mix together.  Lightly press pretzel mix into a 13×9 -inch Pyrex dish and bake for 10 minutes at 350°F, then cool to room temperature.  While pretzel mix is cooling down, beat 8 oz. of softened cream cheese and 1 cup sugar on medium/low speed until well-combined.  Stir in Cool Whip and mix until well combined.  Spread mixture over cooled pretzels and go all the way to the edges of the dish to create a seal to keep the Jell-O from leaking onto the pretzels.  Refrigerate ½ hour.  Arrange raspberries on top of the cream filling.  Pour Jell-O over raspberries and refrigerate until Jell-O is set.

“Chinese” Salad

Since my husband and I served a Mormon mission in Penang, Malaysia, and nearly all the members of our LDS branch there were Chinese, I decided to try out this popular Mormon recipe on them.  Yeah, you couldn’t call this a traditional Chinese dish, but all our Chinese members loved it.  This is served at many a Mormon potluck, maybe because it’s huge!

Chinese Chicken Salad:

1 bag premade coleslaw with carrots

8 spring onions, diced

Set aside.

Brown 3 packages sliced almonds in 6 Tblsp white sugar (or less — do not burn!), and mix with 2 packages crumbled Top Ramen noodles.

Blend in blender:

4 Tblsp sugar

¼ Cup sesame seed oil

½ cup salad oil

1 package top ramen chicken flavoring mix

6 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

Toss all together just before serving.  Add chunks of chilled, cooked chicken breast, if desired.

Funeral Potatoes

Funerals are often held in the chapels of Mormon meetinghouses with the lay congregational leader (called a bishop) conducting the services.  The women’s organization (“Relief Socity”) of the congregation (called a ward) often provides a lunch for the family, and “funeral potatoes” are commonly served.  There are many recipes for funeral potatoes, so the Relief Society president usually distributes a recipe, so all the potato dishes will be the same.  No matter what the recipe, funeral potatoes are fattening, and not often served as an everyday dish.

6 medium potatoes

2 cups dairy sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 ½ cups shredded cheese

1/4 to ½ cup butter

2 cups crushed corn flakes

1/3 cup chopped green onions

1 – 2 Tblsp melted butter

1 ½ tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

Cook potatoes until tender.  Cool and peel, then shred or grate.  Heat the 1/4 to ½ cup butter with the chicken soup until melted and blended.  Blend sour cream, onion, salt & pepper, and cheese into soup mixture.  Mix well.  Mix with potatoes and place in a lightly buttered 9″ x 13″ baking pan or casserole dish.  Combine crushed corn flakes with the 1 – 2 Tbsp butter (melted) and sprinkle over casserole.  Bake at 350º for 45 minutes.

Brownies

Everyone loves brownies, and whenever cookies are brought to potlucks, there are brownies, too.  Lots of Mormons have attended Brigham Young University, and BYU Brownies are famous.  A BYU brownie is traditionally very heavy and sold in myriad machines across campus.  I hate to admit it, but a typical co-ed lunch back in the day was a BYU brownie and a diet soda.  Maybe things have changed?  Below is the 1954 BYU Brownie recipe.  It’s imperative that you undercook these, or they are dry and hard.  Cut into pretty large squares to be authentic.

Vintage BYU Mint Brownies:

8 eggs

2 Cups Sugar

2 cups butter

8 squares bitter chocolate, melted

3½ cups sifted flour

4 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups chopped nuts

Frosting (see below

Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add butter and mix well. Add melted and cooled chocolate. Stir flour, vanilla and nuts into mixture until evenly blended. Pour batter into greased jelly roll pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Take out a bit before they are done or the brownies will be dry. Cool.

Frosting

2½ cups powdered sugar

½ cup butter

1-2 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoon mint flavoring

Green food coloring

3 squares bitter chocolate (melted)

Stir powdered sugar, butter and milk together and divide frosting into 1⁄3 and 2⁄3 amounts. Add 1 teaspoon mint flavoring and few drops green food coloring to 1⁄3 and frost brownies. Refrigerate until frosting has set. Add 3 squares chocolate, melted, to the 2⁄3 amount of frosting. Spread over mint frosted layer after it has set.  If frosting is too stiff, add a little water.  Frosting makes a very thin layer, but still tastes fine.

Lion House Recipes

The Lion House on Temple Square in Salt Lake City is famous for its hearty Mormon food.  LDSLiving.com sometimes offers Lion House Recipes.  To see some, click here.

Gale Boyd is the managing editor for ThirdHour.org. She is a Jewish convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has lived all over the world. She has raised 6 Third Culture Kids and is always homesick for somewhere.