It's family reunion time again. You don't want to miss church, so those delicious recipes straight from the oven won't work this time. Something quick, easy and that can be prepared ahead of time is what you're looking.

Cherries picked fresh from the tree

One recipe that is festive, refreshing, cool and can go on the fruit table or the dessert table is a Bing Cherry, Pineapple and Cola Congealed Salad. Make it ahead of time, keep it in the refrigerator, head off to church and grab it as you head out the door. It's quick, convenient and yummy.

Things You Will Need

1 lb. can dark Bing cherries (I substitute fresh fruit when it's available.)

1 13 1/2 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

1 (3 oz.) pkg. raspberry gelatin

1 (3 oz.) pkg. black cherry gelatin

1 (12 oz.) cola

1 cup celery, finely diced

1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

1 (6 oz.) pkg. cream cheese

1 large mixing bowl

1 saucepan

1 large spoon

1 mixer

1 nut chopper

1 kitchen chopping knife

1 small knife

gelatin mold or serving dish

Step 1

If you are using canned cherries, open them and the pineapple. Drain off the juices into a measuring cup. Set the fruit aside. Add water until total liquid measures 2 cups.

Step 2

Pour liquid into saucepan and head until boiling. Add gelatin. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add cola. Remove from heat and pour into bowl. Place bowl into refrigerator to chill.

Step 3

Remove pits from cherries and cut into halves. If you are using fresh cherries, remove the stems, too.

Step 4

Using mixer, beat cream cheese until it is soft. Add fruit, celery and nuts to form a mixture.

Step 5

When gelatin starts to set, remove from refrigerator. Slowly fold in the fruit mixture by hand. Pour into serving bowl or gelatin mold and refrigerate overnight. Keep cold until ready to serve.

You may want to keep this on ice if you're traveling far.

Yield: 12 to 15 servings

Recipe can be doubled.

I first prepared this recipe, adapting it from a church cookbook, to take to my grandmother's traditional Memorial Day Family Reunion. My grandmother died many years ago, but she had promised her mother that she would carry on the Memorial Day family reunion for as long as she lived. They grew up on farms and were self-sustaining, so putting food on the table for large numbers of children and grandchildren became a huge source of family pride.

"As long as I am on this earth, there will be food on my family's table," said my great-grandmother. Come to think of it, I think she died at the table, her children gathered around her at a family dinner.

My grandmother kept her promise, and now my 88-year-old aunt continues the tradition. Her eldest son is finally taking over this year, so we'll see how long it continues. The earliest one I can remember was back in the 1950s. They must have gone on at least three or four decades before then. There has been no interruption, not one Memorial Day has the family missed.

I missed a few, but that's another story. . .

Hope you enjoy the salad!

Tips & Warnings

This recipe includes nuts, to which some people have severe reactions. While this has never been an issue with our children, you may choose to leave omit them.