Comfort Food Coma with Banana Pudding

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of preparing 6 complete meals + a dessert for a new client. During our initial meeting we discussed they types of meals she and her family enjoyed. I was thrilled to learn they enjoyed meals of Pot roast with vegetables, Fresh Green Beans with Ham Chunks & a side of Buttermilk Cornbread, Chicken & Dumplings, Lasagna, Smothered Pork Chops and Sausage Gravy over Buttermilk Biscuits and for dessert, a big bowl of Banana Pudding.

Green Beans with New Potatoes and Chunks of Ham and a side of Buttermilk Cornbread / Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Cooked Cabbage / Chicken & Dumplings with Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Honey Glazed Carrots / Smothered Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy / Country Sausage, Milk Gravy and Buttermilk Biscuits / Old Fashioned Banana Pudding with Graham Crackers

24 servings of Comfort

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s fun to prepare colorful, summer salads and play with recipes to make them conform to special diets… But… My country heart loves milk gravy bubbling in a cast iron skillet so you can imagine my delight when I received her first menu choices.

As soon as I read the list I called to my husband, “Honey! I’m going to love cooking for this family. They eat REAL food!!”

All kidding aside, I love my job. Being able to provide families with the kind of meals my family also enjoys just makes it that much better.

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 It’s like we’re all sitting at the table together.

Okay. I can’t tease y’all with a menu like that and not give out a recipe.

Here’s my Nanny’s from scratch Banana Pudding recipe. A staple at every get together.

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Something you need to know – Don’t get hung up on exact measurements. Except when she was baking cakes, Nanny never really measured ingredients. She didn’t own a set of measuring cups or spoons. Amounts were based on how it looked, felt and tasted. If she needed a larger pudding she simply spooned out a little more cornstarch and poured in a little more milk.

She didn’t write down recipes for me. Instead I had the privilege of watching her cook. After she suffered a stroke and could no longer come to the kitchen, she (sort of) told me how she made a dish.

My Nanny

My Nanny

When I asked her how to make Banana Pudding, it went something like this;

Nanny: Get my puddin’ pan (Yes, I knew which one she was referring to) and put in about a scoop and a half of sugar.(The red plastic scoop in the sugar canister)
Put in a good spoonful of cornstarch. (Translation – use the spoon she used when cooking & heap it up) 

Enough salt for 2-3 eggs (2 large or 3medium size eggs. We kept chickens so there wasn’t a constant size in the “icebox”) 

Stir the lumps out and put in about a quart or so of milk. When it’s ready (thickened), put in a lump of butter and two caps of vanilla. (She used the lid to the vanilla extract bottle as a measuring device. 1 cap = about ½ teaspoon) 

There were no official amounts or directions given. It was assumed I knew how to take it from there.

For the rest of the world, who has no idea how large the scoop was or what size her cooking spoon may have been, here’s a list of ingredients and directions.

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Yields 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8  teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2/3  lb graham crackers (2 sleeves)
  • 3-4  very ripe bananas
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  • tablespoons butter

Equipment needed:

  • 2 quart Heavy bottom sauce pan
  • Large Spoon
  • Whisk
  • Paring knife for slicing bananas
  • Dry Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Small bowl (for cracking eggs)
  • Large Bowl for pudding

Directions:

  • In a heavy bottom pan, stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt until no lumps remain.

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  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.
  • Slowly stir in milk and place over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
  • As the pudding heats and thickens, it is very important to make sure you are stirring continually, all the way to the edges and side of the pan so you don’t end up with lumpy pudding.
  • I use a spring whisk like this one.   spring-whiskIt does a fine job of getting the flat bottom and 90o edge of skillets and pans.
  • Continue cooking and stirring until it just starts to boil and has a thick pudding consistency.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and butter.

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Start with a layer of graham crackers then sliced bananas, ending with a layer of warm pudding spooned on top. Repeat until you’ve exhausted your supply of pudding.

Nanny's Banana Pudding Bowl

Decorate the top with sections of graham crackers if desired.

Using Nanny’s Banana Pudding Bowl, (Yes, that’s it pictured above) I get 3-4 layers depending on how many and how large my bananas are that day.

Note: Some like to top Banana Pudding with meringue. If you choose to do so, layer your pudding in an oven-proof dish that can withstand the heat of baking the meringue.

Good to know – You can use this recipe to make a Banana Cream Pie. Simply reduce the amount of milk to 3 cups.

Place sliced bananas in a prepared graham cracker crust. Gently spoon on a thin layer of filling  Add a layer of thinly sliced bananas. Top with remaining filling. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming and refrigerate until firm. Top with whipped cream and serve.

Now, excuse me while I have a bowl of warm Banana Pudding! Mmmmmmm

As a side note, today is the 39th anniversary of my dear, Great-Grandmother, Nanny’s passing from this earth to the arms of our Lord. I know she would be pleased that I’m still making her pudding in her bowl.  I love you Nanny heart1

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Rustic Crostata

By Request – Rustic Peach & Blueberry Crostata

Rustic Crostata

Rustic Peach and Blueberry Crostata

I’ve had so many requests for my Rustic Peach & Blueberry Crostata, I decided it was much easier to post it here instead of emailing everyone.
A crostata is a free-form version of an open tart. Traditionally, it is oven baked on a low rimmed baking sheet with the folded up edges of the crust forming the sides. However, there is no hard rule that says you cannot bake this in a pie pan or open skillet; especially if you’re afraid of having burnt juice all over the floor of your oven.

Long many years ago, before we had air conditioning, I baked these in a large cast iron skillet on my *Summer Kitchen a large covered BBQ grill.
Talk about rustic!

  • PLEASE NOTE: All measurements for this recipe are approximant as the tartness of the berries and ripeness of the peaches will determine the amount of flavorings needed.

    Rustic Peach & Blueberry Crostata

    Ingredients:
    1 single pie crust – frozen or homemade
    All-purpose flour for dusting raw dough, & rolling pin
    2-3 Fresh Peaches – sliced, may be peeled or unpeeled
    1 cup fresh blueberries
    ¼ cup + 1Tablespoon dark brown sugar – divided
    ¼ teaspoon + a pinch ground cinnamon – divided
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons spiced rum
    1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
    Egg wash – optional

Directions:

  1. Roll pie crust flat on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to baking sheet, pie pan or large, ovenproof skillet.
  2. Blend ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, cornstarch, vanilla extract, rum and lemon juice. Toss with fruit.
  3. With a slotted spoon, mound fruit into center of crust and gently fold edges of crust towards center, pinching shut folds and creating a 1”-2” tall edge around the crosatta.
  4. Carefully pour any juice created over fruit.
  5. Brush crust with egg wash then sprinkle lightly with remaining brown sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown :45-:60 minutes.
  7. Allow to stand at least :30 for filling to set before serving.
  8. Serving Suggestion – I like to serve this with a spoonful of heavy cream, dollop of sweetened whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream

*A traditional summer kitchen was a covered cooking area or shed, containing a hearth or cook stove and work area apart from the dwelling. This served to keep the heat from cooking out of the family home.

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 ItsAllGoodPersonalChef.com   Serving Evansville, Newburgh and Boonville, Indiana

Mmmm… Wild Blackberry Pie!

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Few things bring back memories of my childhood summers like picking wild blackberries. If you’ve never tasted wild blackberries, you’re missing out on one of God’s finest gifts.

In my area, the only ways to get wild blackberries is to pick them along side country roads, fence rows and scattered patches or purchase them from a Farm Stand. If you’re very, very lucky, you may find a few pints at the local Farmer’s Market. Fortunately, we have several patches of wild berries on our property so I’ll be out picking every morning as long as there are berries to pick. A some will be set aside for pie making. The rest will be cooked down into puree and juice then frozen to make jam and jelly come winter time.

I’ve never gone by a recipe when making pies. I’ve always just added sugar to whatever amount of berries I had, stirred in what looked like enough cornstarch and other ingredients then dug through my cabinet to find a pie pan that looked like it was large/small enough to hold the amount of filling I had. I never even thought about the amount of anything until I started considering writing down the recipe for a friend.

As I made my last pie I measured all of the ingredients and took plenty of pictures so she could duplicate my pies. Here’s what I came up with for a 9” pie.

Making a Seedless Berry Pies

Seedless berry pies aren’t just for folks who don’t like getting those tiny boulders stuck in their teeth. Making a pie with seedless pulp is the only way some people, with digestive issues, can enjoy eating black berry, blueberry and strawberry pies.

My wild blackberries have such a strong, tart flavor, I often mix them 50/50 with fresh picked blueberries to cut down on the amount of sugar needed. If you’re using commercially grown berries, the addition of blueberries may make your filling so sweet you’ll need to add lemon juice to balance the flavor.
Start by making a seedless berry puree by slowly heating berries to a boil in a heavy bottom sauce pan or open Dutch Oven. Once berries start to boil, turn off heat and cover for :15-:20 minutes.

You can separate the seeds from the pulp several ways.

Its All Good Personal Chef

Straining pulp with a fine mesh sieve

Pour 1 cup of cooked berries into a fine mesh sieve. Press pulp through the holes with the back of a large spoon. Once you’ve pressed through all of the pulp you can, dump the seeds and repeat with another cup of berries. Continue until all berries have been processed.

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ItsAllGoodPersonalChef.com Straining Out Blackberry Seeds

A food mill does an excellent job of turning a pile of fruit or vegetables into seedless, skinless pulp. It’s a bit labor intensive but the results are well worth it.

Its All Good Personal Chef

My favorite method of removing tiny seeds is my handy-dandy Sauce Master Food Strainer. You can add nearly a gallon of fruit or vegetables into the hopper and with a few cranks of the handle you have beautiful pureed produce. It works as well with tomatoes and pumpkin as it does small berries.

Seedless Black & Blue Berry Pie Filling

2 ½ cups Black & blueberry puree (or whole berries if a seedless pie in not desired)
1 to 1 ½ cups sugar depending on the tartness of the berries on hand
1/3 cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoon butter divided
Double pie crust recipe or 2 purchased pie crust

ItsAllGoodPersonalChef.com

Seedless Blackberry Pie Filling

Place washed and sorted berries or berry puree in a heavy bottom two quart sauce pan. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon butter & salt. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

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Wild Blackberry Pie Filling

Once the juice has thickened, pour hot mixture into pastry lined 9” pie pan.

Trim away any pastry dough that extends beyond edge.

Top with second full crust or lattice crust.

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Crimp edges together and dot with remaining butter. Sprinkled top crust with a little sugar and cinnamon.

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Place pie pan on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet to catch any juice that may boil over,

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Bake at 350o for :30 minutes or until golden brown.

Pie baking tips:

If you’re new to baking fresh fruit pies, it’s important to know every batch differs slightly in sweetness. Start with the lesser amount of sugar and gradually add more as needed.

One way you can reduce the amount of sugar used with very tart berries is to include some sweeter fruit such as blueberries, sweet apples or apple sauce in your filling.

If the filling is not tart enough, add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.

I like to top my double crust fruit pies with a lattice crust. Not only are they prettier than a full crust, they do a better job of allowing steam to escape lessening the chance of a boil over in your oven.

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