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Cool Whip fans stand by their desserts

Cool Whip is one of those all-American products we love to hate — or at least lots of people who self-identify as food-lovers say they do.

And no wonder; when it was created in 1966, Cool Whip contained no cream at all, although light cream and skim milk were added to the original version a few years ago. Still, a check of the list of ingredients finds water, hydrogenated vegetable oil (although no trans fats) and high-fructose corn syrup before those farmer-friendly products, followed by sodium caseinate, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan and guar gums, polysorbate 60, sorbitan monostrearate, sodium polyphosphate and beta carotene. Whew.

That ingredients list doesn’t, however, seem to have deflated the billowing clouds of Cool Whip’s popularity; within two years after its introduction it was Bird’s Eye’s biggest-selling and most profitable product. Now that it’s under the Kraft Heinz umbrella, it’s the most-consumed brand of whipped topping in the country, and varieties include original, extra-creamy, light, free and sugar-free, plus flavors such as French vanilla and the seasonal strawberry and chocolate, and numerous generic versions have sprung up. Some 38 percent of American households reportedly buy at least one tub of Cool Whip a year.

In the past 50 years, Cool Whip has become the darling of convenience cooks (which most of us are, at least occasionally) and a staple of community-cookbook recipes. Faced with a recipe that lists it as an ingredient, most cooks would be hard-pressed to find a substitute because, for better or worse, there’s just nothing like it.

Which is a statement with which we feel sure Shaina Chambers would concur. Chambers, social-media coordinator for Kirvin Doak Communications in Las Vegas and a hard-core Cool Whip fanatic, said she actually doesn’t use it in recipes, as ironic as that may seem.

“I like to put it in the freezer and eat it by the spoonful,” Chambers said. “I’m a very textural person. I love that it gets a little bit icy, and it’s creamier than ice cream. I just feel like regular whipped cream has too much air; there’s not a lot of substance to it.”

But she doesn’t just eat it with a spoon; Chambers said if she makes brownies, for example, she’s likely to top them with Cool Whip and some sliced strawberries.

Still, while it’s far more harmless than a lot of habits we can think of, Chambers’ Cool Whip jones has created problems for her.

“I remember one Thanksgiving, I got in massive amounts of trouble with my mom,” she said. She was about 10, and didn’t think about the fact that Mom was planning to serve that Cool Whip with the pumpkin pie.

“I had been taking spoonfuls all day,” she said, “so there was hardly any left.”

And as for those who turn up their noses at the thought of Cool Whip, she just figures haters gonna hate.

“It’s not something I take personally,” she said.

Then again …

“I don’t openly and outwardly turn around and defend it. I’m a closet fan.”

If you, too, want to revel in the glory that is Cool Whip’s 50th anniversary, the recipes the company says are the five most popular follow, after which we offer other iconic Cool Whip recipes.

And remember, while you do need to thaw it, you don’t even have to whip it, whip it good.

WATERGATE SALAD

One 20-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained

One 3.4-ounce package pistachio-flavor instant pudding

1 cup miniature marshmallows

½ cup chopped pecans

1½ cups thawed Cool Whip

Combine first four ingredients in large bowl. Stir in Cool Whip. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Serves 8.

— Recipe from Kraft

EASY SOUTHERN BANANA PUDDING

3 cups cold milk

Two 3.4-ounce packages vanilla-flavor instant pudding

30 vanilla wafers

3 bananas, sliced

1 8-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

Beat milk with pudding mixes with whisk for 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes.

Arrange half of the wafers on the bottom and up the sides of a 2-quart serving bowl; layer with half of the banana slices and half of the pudding. Repeat all layers. Cover with Cool Whip.

Refrigerate three hours.

Serves 14.

— Recipe from Kraft

GELATIN POKE CAKE

1 package white cake mix (and ingredients for preparing cake)

1 cup boiling water

1 3-ounce package strawberry-flavor gelatin

½ cup cold water

1 8-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 13-by-9-inch pan. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes.

Pierce cake with large fork at ½-inch intervals.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix in small bowl; stir 2 minutes, until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water; pour over cake. Refrigerate three hours.

Frost with Cool Whip. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Serves 16.

— Recipe from Kraft

GRAHAM CRACKER ECLAIR “CAKE”

One 3.4-ounce package vanilla-flavor instant pudding

1½ cups cold milk

15 graham crackers, broken crosswise in half (divided use)

1 8-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

1 cup prepared chocolate frosting

Beat pudding mix and milk in large bowl with whisk 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cover bottom of an 8-inch square pan with graham pieces, overlapping as needed to form even layer.

Stir Cool Whip into pudding; spread half over graham pieces in pan. Cover with 10 of the remaining graham pieces. Repeat layers of pudding mixture and graham pieces.

Refrigerate three hours. Spread with chocolate frosting.

Serves 9.

— Recipe from Kraft

EASY COCONUT CREAM PIE

Two 3.4-ounce packages vanilla-flavor instant pudding

2 cups cold milk

2 cups thawed Cool Whip (divided use)

1 cup flaked coconut (divided use)

One 6-ounce ready-to-use graham-cracker crumb crust

Beat pudding mixes and milk in large bowl with whisk for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup Cool Whip and ¾ cup coconut; pour into crust. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile, toast remaining coconut in skillet or oven. Top pie with remaining Cool Whip and sprinkle with toasted coconut

Serves 8.

— Recipe from Kraft

STRAWBERRY-PRETZEL SQUARES MADE OVER

1½ cups finely crushed pretzels

½ cup sugar (divided use)

½ cup margarine, melted

12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (such as Neufchatel), softened

2 tablespoons fat-free milk

1 cup thawed Cool Whip

2 cups boiling water

One 0.6-ounce package strawberry-flavor sugar-free gelatin

1½ cups cold water

4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix pretzel crumbs, ¼ cup sugar and margarine; press onto bottom of 13-by-9-inch pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool.

Beat cream cheese, remaining sugar and milk until blended. Stir in Cool Whip; spread onto crust. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water. Refrigerate 1½ hours, or until thickened. Stir in berries; spoon over cream-cheese layer. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.

Serves 24.

— Recipe from the Kraft Heinz Co.

WHITE CHOCOLATE-RASPBERRY 4TH OF JULY TRIFLE

One 1-ounce package white-chocolate-flavor sugar-free fat-free instant pudding

1½ cups cold fat-free milk

One 8-ounce tub Cool Whip Lite, thawed (divided use)

One 13-ounce prepared angel food cake, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 6½)

2 cups blueberries

2 cups raspberries

Beat pudding mix and milk in medium bowl with whisk 2 minutes. Stir in 1½ cups Cool Whip. Layer half each of the cake and berries in large serving bowl; cover with pudding mixture. Top with layers of remaining cake, berries and Cool Whip. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Serves 16.

— Recipe from the Kraft Heinz Co.

EASY STRAWBERRY CREAM PIE

1 1/3 cups cookie crumbs (chocolate sandwich, graham cracker, chocolate wafer or gingersnap)

6 tablespoons sugar (divided use)

1/3 cup butter, melted

One 16-ounce package frozen whole strawberries, thawed

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

Two 3.4-ounce packages vanilla-flavor instant pudding

2 cups thawed Cool Whip (divided use)

1¼ cups sliced fresh strawberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cookie crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar and butter; press onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes; cool. Turn off oven.

Use pulsing action to process whole strawberries and remaining sugar in food processor just until berries are finely chopped. Add cream cheese; process just until blended. Spoon into large bowl. Add dry pudding mixes; stir 2 minutes. Gently stir in 1½ cups Cool Whip; spoon into crust. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Garnish with remaining Cool Whip and sliced strawberries just before serving.

Serves 8.

— Recipe from the Kraft Heinz Co.

“KEY LIME” CLOUD SQUARES

1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (divided use)

¼ cup butter, melted

¾ cup boiling water

One 3-ounce package lime-flavor gelatin

1 cup ice cubes

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

¾ cup lime juice

2 cups thawed Cool Whip

Reserve 1 tablespoon graham crumbs. Mix remaining crumbs with butter; press onto bottom of plastic-wrap-lined 9-inch square pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix in small bowl; stir 2 minutes. until completely dissolved. Add ice; stir 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove any unmelted ice.

Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in milk, then lime juice. Add gelatin; mix well. Whisk in 1 cup Cool Whip. Pour over crust. Refrigerate 6 hours or until firm.

Cover with remaining Cool Whip just before serving; sprinkle with reserved graham crumbs. Use plastic wrap to remove dessert from pan before cutting into squares.

Serves 16.

— Recipe from the Kraft Heinz Co.

FROZEN DOUBLE PEANUT BUTTER PIE

24 peanut butter sandwich cookies, finely crushed (about 3 cups)

5 tablespoons butter, melted

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter

¾ cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

One 8-ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed (divided use)

Mix cookie crumbs and butter; press onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate.

Beat next four ingredients in medium bowl with mixer until well blended. Stir in 1½ cups Cool Whip; spoon into crust. Freeze 4 hours or until firm.

Remove from freezer 30 minutes before serving. Let stand at room temperature to soften slightly. Top with remaining Cool Whip.

Serves 12.

— Recipe from the Kraft Heinz Co.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com, and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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