I first had this non-salad salad at a friend's house. Here is our exchange:
Me: What exactly is that scary 1970's gelatinized mess?
Friend: Strawberry Pretzel Salad. It's awesome. Just try it.
Me: I'm scared.
Friend: Your loss.
Me: (takes small bite)
Me: (grabs dish with remaining salad and proceeds to the corner to stuff face)
Yes, I know it's very 70's-ladies-magazine-ish. I promise it's delicious. I even swapped out the Cool Whip for something a little more like real food. The Jell-O is non-negotiable, however. I'm still trying to determine if using organic strawberries is a brilliant idea to cut down on ingested chemicals or a disgusting waste of money.
Strawberry Pretzel Salad
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker blog
2 cups finely crushed pretzels
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
For the strawberry topping:
2 cups boiling water
1 (6-ounce) package strawberry Jell-O
1½ cups cold water
4 cups sliced strawberries (about 1½ quarts)
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, stir together the pretzel crumbs and sugar. Pour the melted butter over top and stir with a fork until all of the crumbs are evenly moistened. Press into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake for 10 min, then cool completely.
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and beat until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Spread evenly over the crust and refrigerate while you prepare the topping.
Place the dry Jell-O in a large bowl and add the boiling water. Stir for at least 2 minutes, until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the cold water. Refrigerate for 1½ hours or until slightly thickened (will be the consistency of egg whites). Stir in the strawberries and pour over the cream cheese layer. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until the Jell-O layer is set. Cut into squares to serve. Leftovers should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes 12 to 16 servings