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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Nanny’s Dumplings – Food for the Gods

I was cruising facebook when a noticed a post a friend had made in which he asked the question, “What was your favorite meal that your grandmother made?”

Most responded with fried chicken, chicken & dumplings or beef roast.

I wasn’t surprised.  I too was blessed to have tasted the world’s finest fried chicken, dumplings and beef roast, all lovingly prepared from scratch.  Above all, my favorite had to be Nanny’s dumplings.

Her flour was kept in a huge canister kept under the kitchen sink. This thing easily held 50-lbs of flour. In the top sat a flour filled white granite pan with an emerald green rim. This was the little pan she used to dredge meat and make her delicious dumplings.

Because it sat under the sink for (probably) 40+ years, the bottom rusted away. However I still have that little granite pan and use it to make dumplings with my grandson.

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Nanny’s Dumplings

One of my favorite memories is of me standing in a kitchen chair, next to the table,”helping” her make dumplings.

She would fill sifter with flour and let me turn the little red wooden knob on the side. At some point she would take over and fill the pan with fluffy flour. Nest, she made a well in the center and poured the required amount of salt, from the blue box, into the palm of her cupped  hand* and dumped it in.

As she turned to retrieve a cup of water from the sink I would poke my fingers in the pan. She’d pour the icy-cold well water in and stir it around with two fingers. Never just one. Never three. Two fingers carefully stirring the water into the flour, incorporating a little more with each revolution until it formed a spongy ball.

Once she was satisfied with the mixture, she instruct me to sift a bit of flour onto the center of the 100+yo breadboard that once belonged to her husband’s grandmother. Now it was time to knead the dough just enough form it into a soft ball that didn’t stick to the board.

At this point she would turn to check on the chicken stewing in the pot, put the canister and flour pan back under the sink… anything to give me time to poke the soft dough and get a feel for how soft/firm the dough should be before it was rolled out into a huge sheet that completely covered the board. As she’d turn to grab the old butcher knife I knew this was my last chance to poke the dough one last time.

The dough was rolled to about 3/8″ thickness, peppered liberally and sliced into 1-1/2″  ribbons then sliced diagonally into long diamonds. She’d drop these, one at a time, into a big pot of bubbling chicken broth thickened with a flour-water slurry.

(* Nanny placed her index finger in the center of her slightly cupped palm and explained to me this equaled 1 teaspoonful. Her thumb equaled1 tablespoon and 3-fingers was about 1/4 cup)

4+ cups all-purpose flour (+ more for kneading)
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 cup cold water
1 gallon boiling chicken stock with or without chicken meat included.

That’s it.

That’s the entire recipe for Nanny’s Dumplings

 

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After I got over the wave of nostalgia, I started wondering what the grandchildren of future grandparent’s to be will say?

“I loved the way grandma ordered pizza, with extra cheese, on her old iphone”.

“No one could pull into a McDonald’s drive-thru like my Nanna”

Maybe they will gush over how she always allowed them to open the blue and yellow box of Mac & (fake) Cheese she served with microwaved hotdogs.

Life Changing Scones!

Warning: This is a very long post because the recipe included is very, very detailed.

A few days ago, I had the honor to prepare a lovely Galentine’s Day brunch*  for 25 powerful business ladies. The guests were just arriving as the aroma of apple-wood smoked bacon filled the air. In no time, the scent of garlic and fresh basil would join the festivities.

On the menu:

 

Spinach and Cherry Tomato Mini Frittatas with Fresh Basil Chiffonade
25 made with egg whites only
and
25 made with the whole egg.

Asparagus Tips Wrapped in Applewood Smoked Bacon

Gluten Free Mini Raspberry Tarts topped with Chocolate Ganache and Fresh Berries

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Date & Nut Balls rolled in Coconut Snow

Cranberry-Orange Scones
Served with Clotted Cream, Whipped Butter and Cranberry-Orange Marmalade

Custom Designed, Decorated Sugar Cookies
(Provided by Miss Laura’s Cookies)

Lemon-Limeade
with
Strawberry Ice

I felt the menu was just right for the occasion; A nice mix of traditional brunch favorites with a dab of Valentine’s Day sweetness tossed in. However, the star of the party was, without question, the Cranberry-Orange Scones.

A few of the guest had been to previous events where my scones were on the menu and could not wait until these were out of the oven. I don’t even know how many ladies made their way to the kitchen to inquire if they were ready yet. Okay, the oven mysteriously turning itself off did cause a 20-minute delay in getting them to the dining room, BUT come on! I’ve never seen so much excitement over a side item on the buffet.

Initially, I had planned on making 3 dozen. I wound up making 60 scones just to insure everyone enjoyed as many as they liked.

I’m not exaggerating. At the end, guests were coming into the kitchen asking if they could have a baggie to take scones home. When I remarked to my client’s assistant than I had never attended a party where the guests asked for a doggie-bag, she exclaimed, “Then you’ve never been to a party where your food was served!”
          – Maybe I need to start sticking around after the meal has been served.

The client remarked that at her next party, perhaps she should have boxes made available for scones to-go.

I’ve never visited England or Ireland but some in attendance had. One lady remarked she lived in England for a year and enjoyed tea with scones every day she was there and mine are the very best she has tasted.
What a compliment!

I don’t mean to sound my own horn, but I do think the biggest difference in a so-so scone and a “Life Changing Scone”, (Yes, one of the guest actually called my scones “Life Changing”) is not so much the recipe as the technique.

I do not use a food processor.
I grate almost frozen butter directly into the flour mixture.

I never knead the dough.
I gently fold the dough upon itself 4-5 times.

I don’t use a rolling pin.
I gently pat the dough into a rectangle about ¾ to 1” thick and use a board scraper to cut them into triangles.

I don’t top my Cranberry-Orange scones with sugar or apply a sugary glaze, unless the client requests they be glazed..
Instead, I like to serve them with clotted cream, whipped butter and cranberry-orange marmalade which perfectly complements the flavor. If clotted cream is not available in your area, you can make your own (directions available on the web). Making clotted cream is labor intensive but well worth the effort.

Here’s the recipe I use:

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Cranberry-Orange Scones

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INGREDIENTS

4 level cups All-Purpose Flour (I use King Arthur 100% organic All-Purpose Flour)
¼ rounded cup sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder (Be sure to check the expiration date)
2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 ½ – 2 tablespoons Freshly Grated Orange Zest
¾ pound Very Cold Butter
4 Large Eggs
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup dried or 1 ½ cup fresh Cranberries —  If using fresh cranberries, be sure to sort, wash and pat dry before adding them to mixture

Egg Wash
1 Large Egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of Heavy Cream

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400 F

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2. Using a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and kosher salt. Use hands or stir with whisk to combine.

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3. Grate orange zest directly into butter-flour mixture and fluff lightly with hands until zest is completely incorporated. If you’re adding fruit and/or nuts, do so now.

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4. Grate cold butter directly into bowl of flour mixture a little (2-3 tablespoons) at a time.

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5. Fluffing the butter into the flour with hands between each addition.

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6. Beat 4 large eggs with 1 cup of heavy cream. Make a whole in the center of flour/butter mixture and pour in egg- and cream mixture. Using your hands, gently incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry just until it is well moistened. Batter will appear lumpy – that’s okay. I find if you use your hands instead of a spoon you’re less likely to over mix, causing  the scones to become heavy and tough.
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7. Pour batter onto a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper, parchment paper or the plastic side of freezer wrap. Sprinkle just enough flour on top to prevent your hands from sticking. Very gently, shape dough into a rectangle.
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8. Lightly flour again and gently fold the dough over upon itself. Lightly flour any damp surface and repeat process 3-4 more times.
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9. Shape dough into a long rectangle and allow to rest 3-5 minutes.

10. Cut dough down the center, with a floured knife, making two very long narrow sections. Depending on the size you desire, cut each long sections into 6-8 scones each** (12-16 total yield)

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11. Place scones ½” to ¾” apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Lightly brush tops with egg wash.

12. Bake at 400  F for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving (If your guest can wait that long!)

13. Serve with your choice of marmalade, butter and/or clotted cream.

Scones are best eaten warm from the oven or at least, they should be prepared the day you plan to serve them. Depending on how large/small you choose to cut your triangles, this recipe can easily yield 12 huge or 20 small scones.

Don’t want that many? No problem!
Instead of reducing the recipe, go ahead and mix up a whole batch. Freeze any unbaked scones for later use. Just add an additional 3-5 minutes to the bake time.

Frozen scones are great to keep on hand for unexpected guest or to treat yourself. Because you don’t have to bake a whole batch at a time, you can have a hot, fresh scone every day with little effort!

Unbaked, they will keep well in the freezer for 1-month in a regular zip-top freezer bag. If you use a FoodSaver (R), they’ll keep in the freezer up to 6-months.

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These were baked from frozen.

*Amy Poehier as fictional character Leslie Kope on NBC Comedy Parks and Recreation, “What’s Galentine’s Day? It’s only the best time of the year! Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style: ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair minus the angst . . . plus frittatas.”

**To all the haters… Yes, I understand traditional scones are made with much less butter than this recipe calls for and many believe scones shouldn’t include any fruit (expect for the occasional current) .

I never said these were traditional scones.
They are “Life Changing Scones” 😀

You can find the recipe for Gluten Free Raspberry Tarts at https://itsallgoodpersonalchef.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/a-gluten-free-christmas/

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ItsAllGoodPersonalChef.com Serving Evansville, Newburgh and Boonville, Indiana