Banana Pudding

Banana pudding has always been one of my favorites. Sweet, creamy and delicious, this is one of the ultimate comfort foods. There are lots of variations on this dessert – some with custard made from scratch and others that use pudding from a box mix, some with cream cheese and others with heavy cream. My banana pudding recipe combines the convenience of boxed pudding mix with the homemade touch of fresh whipped cream. It gets a slight tang from the addition of sour cream. I also dress it up by swapping out vanilla wafers for Chessman shortbread cookies. This pudding recipe is easy to make and is a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

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Banana Pudding (adapted from the recipe on the Publix vanilla wafers box)

Ingredients

  • 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 3 – 1/2 cups cold milk (I used 1% but whatever you have on hand will work)
  • 16-ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 8-ounces sour cream
  • 4 – 6 bananas
  • 2 packages of Chessman cookies (I use the mini cookies when I can find them)

In a large bowl, combine instant pudding mix with cold milk. Whisk until combined. I use slightly less milk than the package directions call for in order to get a thicker pudding. The trick to get smooth pudding is to add a small amount of milk to the pudding (about a 1/2 cup) and stir until combined (it will be very thick). Add another half cup of milk and still until smooth. Continue in this manner until all the milk is added and the pudding is smooth. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

After the pudding sets, stir in 8-ounces of sour cream and refrigerate.

In another large bowl, whisk heavy whipping cream until it forms stiff peaks. Be careful not to let it go too far or it will turn into butter!

Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding/sour cream mixture.

Peel and slice a few bananas.

In a 9×13 pan or a large bowl, start with a layer of Chessman cookies. Top with a layer of bananas and half the pudding mixture. Add another layer of Chessman cookies and bananas then the other half of the pudding. Finally, top with a layer of Chessman cookies.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

IMG_2378Cold, creamy and oh so delicious. This is a great dessert (and breakfast, too, if there are any leftovers) for a potluck, picnic, or weeknight treat. Enjoy!

What’s in Season Now: Avocado Smoothie

Avocado Smoothie

This time of year, my family has a plethora of ripe, delicious avocados falling off the trees in the backyard. I’m not sure exactly what variety of avocado these are, but they are significantly larger than Haas avocados (the avocados from California that you typically see in the grocery store) and don’t turn brown as they ripen. They have a sweet flavor and a buttery, silky texture. We returned home from our Winter Haven Christmas with two large, almost ripe avocados. Inspired by a recipe in the latest edition of Everyday Food, I whipped up this smoothie for breakfast one day last week.

Avocado Smoothie (1 serving)

In a blender combine one small banana, 2-1/2 ounces avocado (about 1/4 of a Florida avocado), 1/2 cup milk (I used 1%), 2 teaspoons almond butter, 1/8 cup rolled oats, 3 ounces fat-free plain Greek yogurt, and 5 – 6 ice cubes. Blend until smooth. Sweeten to taste (I added a drizzle of honey). Serve immediately.

The color of the smoothie left something to be desired (berry smoothies are much prettier in the glass) but the texture and subtle avocado flavor was excellent. I don’t typically like smoothies for breakfast, but his recipe was creamy and satisfying. The almond butter and Greek yogurt provided satieting protein while the oats served as a thickening agent. Overall this is a breakfast I really enjoyed and would definitely make again.

Banana Peanut Butter Chip Pancakes

Banana pancakes are one of my favorite weekend breakfasts, but I do not make them often because Jill and I go out bicycling most Saturday mornings. A couple of weekends ago, we decided to take a Saturday off from bicycling and make brunch instead. With a box of Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix in the pantry and a couple of bananas ready to be eaten, I decided to make banana pancakes for Saturday brunch.

For a tasty variation on more traditional banana pancakes, I substituted almond milk for the milk in the pancake recipe on the Trader Joe’s Multigrain Baking and Pancake Mix package to give the pancakes a slightly nuttier flavor. I then ladled the prepared pancake mix onto a hot griddle and dropped slices of banana and peanut butter chips onto the individual pancakes as they cooked. I flipped the pancakes over long enough to brown the natural sugars in the bananas and make sure the pancakes were cooked.

Pancakes with bananas and peanut butter chips
Pancakes with bananas and peanut butter chips

Cooking pancakes with almond milk and bananas gave them a taste almost reminiscent of banana bread. The hot skillet cooked the pancakes while softening the bananas and brining out their sweetness. The peanut butter chips, although decadent, proved to be a natural pairing with the bananas. The peanut butter chips also reminded me of another type of pancake I remembered loving as a kid – chocolate chip pancakes.

Banana peanut butter chip pancakes, turkey sausage, and hot coffee
Saturday brunch

Complemented with turkey sausage patties and a hot cup of coffee, these banana peanut butter chip pancakes made for a great Saturday brunch.

Banana Chia Flax Oats (a la KERF)

One of the first healthy living blogs I followed was Kath Eats Real Food (KERF for short).  I was intrigued by her Tribute to Oatmeal.  Although it was never my first choice for breakfast growing up, oats are very heart healthy and KERF made them look delicious so last winter I took a page from her book and began making oatmeal with pumpkin and fun toppings.  It was the perfect cool weather breakfast.  I was excited last week when the temps in north Florida finally dropped below 80 because that meant the return of hot oats for breakfast!

These are the stars of my oaty breakfast: chia seeds, sunflower seed butter (soooooo good!!!), and flaxseed meal (pre-ground flax seeds).

Both chia seeds and flaxseed meal are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and high in fiber.

Chia seeds give the oatmeal a fluffy texture (I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I can’t think of another way to describe the unique texture) because they plump up when they come in contact with liquid.

Flaxseed meal is pre-ground flax seed (you can grind your own flax seeds using a coffee bean grinder, but I’m not into all that mess first thing in the morning).  Flax gives the oats a slightly nutty flavor.

Sunflower seed nut butter is one of my true loves (you can read my review of nut butters here).  A healthy dollop of sunflower seed butter on top of oats is deeeeeelicious!

I basically follow the KERF method, with a few modifications:

– I use 1% milk (I’m not into skim milk or soy milk)

– I use 1/3 cup water instead of 1/2 cup water (I like thicker oats)

– I use 2 teaspoons chia seeds

– I add 2 teaspoons of flaxseed meal at the end with the vanilla

I pretty much think everything tastes better served in a recycled nut butter jar, so I serve my oatios in a jar topped with a healthy glob (about a tablespoon) of nut butter.  At this point, you could also add layers of crunchy granola, dried fruit, or whatever else you like in your oats.  This is a yummy, fibrous, heart healthy breakfast that does a body good on a cold morning!