Archive for Diesserts

God Bless America and Ice Cream

Ice cream with the lovely Brandy Caldwell in The Berkshires

It’s July, and it’s already a scorcher. In the profound words of a friend’s Facebook status, “Satan called and he would like his weather back.” Have no fear, National Ice Cream Month is here, as if we need any other reason to indulge in one of America’s favorite desserts. I certainly do not. There is no other treat that can beat the often unbearable South Carolina heat quite like a cool, refreshing scoop of ice cream. Be it vanilla or triple chunk chocolate with almond slivers and a raspberry-caramel swirl, ice cream tends to generate quite the hype during the summertime, and it does so for good reason. The ice cream craze began because this cool, sweet sensation wrapped in a smooth, creamy texture could only be found in fancy cafés in Paris, where the art of ice cream making was known by few. It was a rare delicacy. Today’s ice cream, while still a delicacy, is not nearly as difficult to find or make.

With all the other frozen treat alternatives from gelato to frozen yogurt, what exactly makes ice cream, well, ice cream? The United States’ government created certain guidelines that must be met in order to carry the name “ice cream.” The main rule being ice cream must contain at least 10 percent milk fat. Milk fat comes from the milk and cream used in making ice cream and gives it a smooth texture, rich flavor and creamy body. However, gelato, an Italian-style ice cream, is creamier and richer but not because of added milk fat. Gelato is actually made with less milk fat, and its denseness comes from the fact that less air is incorporated into its mixture. I must confess that I have been known to cheat on ice cream with gelato on occasion.

One of the latest installments of Ben & Jerry's flavor conglomerate

Despite the sometimes outrageous and always increasing flavors of ice cream, vanilla and chocolate still reign as champions among consumers. Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, Karmel Sutra, Mission Marzipan, Fossil Fuel, Cherry Garcia and Phish Food could all very well be names of 80’s hair bands, but they are actually the names for ice cream flavors created by one of my all-time favorite duos, Ben and Jerry. Ben and Jerry rank right up there with Simon and Garfunkel, Will and Grace (better yet, Jack and Karen), Kath and Kim (AUS version), Pinky and the Brain, and Bobby and Whitney (SIKE!). In my limited opinion, these beloved ice cream connoisseurs were the first to push the envelope past your normal, run-of-the-mill flavors by creating new and unique flavors with wacky names. I cross my fingers in great anticipation for the unveiling of Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles ice cream. #pipedreams (for you twitter savvy folks)

Freedom of Choice!

Buying ice cream is easy. The grocer’s freezer is filled with all sorts of brands, varieties and flavors, and a surplus of ice cream parlors are popping up all over town. Yes, freedom of choice in America is definitely made loud and proud by way of ice cream, so maybe it is no coincidence that the 4th of July falls in National Ice Cream Month. However, as the passive and non-decisive person that I am, I find an excess amount of choices makes my palms sweat. Then I remember I’m just a girl standing in front of tubs of ice cream asking them to love me. Rock on, America and Freedom of Choice!

During college and one dreadfully hot summer, I worked at Clemson’s ’55 Exchange (named in honor of donations from the class of ’55) and served up Clemson’s finest, ice cream that is. Sure, the University of South Carolina has two national baseball titles under their belt, but Clemson has ice cream and that counts for something, right? Well, in my book that’s all you really need. It was a fun job until on any given day, a gaggle of college boys with their bottomless pits for stomachs would come in all requesting large, extra-thick chocolate milkshakes, which in case you didn’t realize requires a heck of a lot of ice cream. Also, this usually requires one to switch out an emptied vat of ice cream to the one underneath, which being rock solid, would prompt the need for a chisel to make headway towards proper scoopage. Needless to say, my biceps were amazing that summer, specifically my right bicep, and perhaps it did appear rather disproportionate to the rest of my body. The point is you can purchase ice cream in a Mary Poppins snap, but what about making your own? I don’t care who you are or where you come from; homemade ice cream ALWAYS tastes better.

Because of my spidey senses, or the magnetic force that lures me into the ice cream aisle every time I step foot into a grocery store, I’ve noticed a trend in the new flavors emerging. Non-ice cream desserts, such as apple pie, banana pudding, tiramisu, and s’mores made into ice cream flavors are the new big thing. One of my favorite desserts happens to be key lime pie. I just got chills thinking about it. At Clemson if you are one of the Food Science students who works in the microcreamery (where they make the ice cream), you get to invent your very own flavor flav. Alas, I did not work in the microcreamery, but I always knew what flavor I would create. Key Lime Pie Ice Cream (recipe follows)!

Ice Cream Making Vessel

GREAT GIFT IDEA ALERT: Allegedly, there is a ball-shaped ice cream maker that your kids or somebody else’s kids can shake, pass or roll, and in 30 minutes you’ll have a quart of ice cream. Some news station out of Missouri had a write-up on the ball, and they gave the product a B-. They also gave me a chuckle with the following excerpt: “We quickly learn this ball is kind of heavy. Little Tessa has the hardest time of all. Watch those toes! This thing weighs seven pounds! Still, it is kind of fun.” Whoever came up with this idea I would like to shake their hand, as I am a firm supporter of pointless, fun inventions, like those flip-flops with the bottle opener in the sole or pajama jeans. I had to hold my tongue here when the obvious example would be the Shake Weight. It’s like this decade’s ThighMaster. Thanks for nothing, Suzanne Somers 🙂

SIDENOTE: Although what I’m about to reveal may very well solidify the stereotypical statements made in unison about cows and Clemson, I would like to proudly state that in college I was inducted into the National Dairy Shrine based on my 5th place standing at the National Dairy Products Evaluation Contest. Yes, I was a dairy judge. You may be wondering how does one receive this prestigious honor. Well, I basically heard my adviser say, “Blah, blah, blah…you get to go to Chicago,” and decided I needed no further explanation. I was in, and this meant I spent many early mornings tasting oxidized milk, scorched butter (which actually tastes like caramel candy), and grainy cottage cheese. So, what does a competition look like? A nerd fest! For real, we carry around clip boards, wear pleated khakis and taste 8 samples of each of the following products—milk, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheddar cheese, and ICE CREAM, of course. Technically, you are supposed to spit out each sample as you taste, but whenever it came to ice cream, I could never spit it out. I just love it too much to do so.

PHOTO: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Jan Gautro

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

1 ½ cups 2% reduced-fat milk

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon key lime zest*

2 cups heavy whipping cream

½ cup key lime juice**

Dash of salt

8 graham crackers (2 cookie sheets), coarsely crushed

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk, granulated sugar, and zest until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in the heavy cream, juice and salt. Pour the mixture into freezer bowl of an ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in graham crackers and transfer to a freezer-safe container. Cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving. Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

*Key lime zest can be substituted with lime zest.

**Key lime juice can be substituted with lime juice.

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There’s Always Room for Cake

If you ask any kid what their favorite food is, I would be willingly to bet that 1 in 3 will say, “Cake!” Grown-ups will most likely not say cake, but grown-ups lie. It isn’t so much that kids say the darndest things as they do the most truthful of things. As an adult that identifies more as a child, I can proudly say that I, Marie Hegler, do love cake with all my heart.

Relax, it's just chocolate!

Cake is the food of celebration. Why do you think people always serve cake at weddings? Because if they didn’t, nobody would bother to attend such a candid display of love and commitment. I’m kidding. Cake is also the main event of birthday celebrations. Remember the time when your Great Aunt Mildred took you to Ryan’s for your birthday. You specifically told her not to tell the waitress that it was, indeed, your birthday. But before you could butter your yeast roll, the Ryan’s team had surrounded your table clapping and chanting in a disturbing, cult-like fashion. Though you resented the singing and utter embarrassment of that moment, you knew Great Aunt Mildred’s coconut cake awaited you, so you politely smiled it off. Never underestimate the power of cake.

On the health spectrum, cake falls at the far end with other guilty pleasures that are considered unacceptable by someone named Jenny1 or Jillian2. Jenny and I are not friends, and my fear of Jillian climbing atop my back and making me run up flights of stairs has also prevented a budding friendship from forming. However, I do have a friend. Her name is Marisa. She is pretty. She also makes people cakes for their birthdays, which may or may not be one of the main reasons we are friends. For my ex-roommate/husband’s birthday not too long ago, Marisa and I teamed up and made one exceptionally malicious cake. This cake was first prepared for me by my friend Heather’s mom, Sheila. Sheila possesses the same entertaining poise and grace as the one and only Ina Garten (see SIDENOTE). During this blessed cake-consuming experience, the heavens opened up and made their glorious presence known.

The heavens are calling...they want their cake back!

Needless to say, Marisa and I jumped on board when given the chance to make this awe-inspiring cake for a special lad’s birthday. Lindsay helped by opening a few packages. The cake we prepared did not turn out nearly as…um…pretty or put-together as Sheila’s. It sort of fell apart upon cutting. Thankfully,  it was as delicious as it was messy. Allow me to break this cake down for you—four delicious layers of chocolate cake each topped with a mouth-watering, brown sugar-butter-walnut concoction and then freshly-made whipped cream.

We carried the cake in all its glory with us to a restaurant for my ex-roommate/husband’s birthday celebration. The first thing our fabulous waiter said to us was, “I’m gonna go ahead and get you guys some bread and waters, cuz I wanna a piece of that cake.” He was given a generous slice and so was our gracious hostess. As we departed the restaurant with bellies full and hearts warm, a few other waiters confessed to snagging a bite of the cake and commented on its superiority and decadence. I must add that this cake makes other cakes look like pudding snack packs, but you don’t have to take my word for it. You can ask Sheila, Lindsay, my ex-roommate/husband, Marisa, Heather, Brooke, our waiter, our hostess, a couple other waiters and Anna. So, the next time you and your entourage are dinning out, and the waiter asks if you’ve left room for dessert, don’t lie. There’s always room for cake.

SIDENOTE: Ina Garten with her trademark popped collar, bob and bangs haircut and nervous giggle is the queen of all things overly delicious and expensive on the Food Network. She is also known as the Barefoot Contessa. The name is really equivalent to a stage name since her cooking show is called Barefoot Contessa, the name of the gourmet store she once bought and operated in East Hampton. The store had been named by its original owner in tribute to the 1954 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner. Garten decided to keep the name when she took over, believing it represented her idea of an “elegant but earthy” lifestyle.

1Jenny Craig- a weight loss company that has centers across the U.S., most of which are located next to a Marble Slab Creamery

2Jillian Michaels- a fitness trainer who will make you cry off those unwanted pounds

This blog is brought to you by—Sheila’s cocktail hour, 14-year-olds portraying 14-year-olds in films (Ex: True Grit), and the Puppy Bowl.

Chocolate Praline Torte

1 ½ cups chopped walnuts

1 ½ cups vanilla wafer crumbs

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix without pudding (we tested with Duncan Hines)

1 ½ cups whipping cream

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnishes: chopped walnuts, chocolate shavings

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine first 4 ingredients. Sprinkle about 1 cup walnut mixture into each of four ungreased 9-inch round cake pans, pressing lightly in pans.
  3. Prepare cake mix according to package directions; pour batter evenly over walnut mixture in prepared pans. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let layers cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes; remove from pans.  Cool layers completely, nut side up, on wire racks.
  4. Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixture until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Stir in vanilla.
  5. Place 1 layer, nut side up, on a serving plate. Spread 1 cup whipped cream over layer. Repeat with remaining layers, ending with whipped cream. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately or cover and chill 1 to 2 hours. To serve, slice torte with a serrated knife. Yield: 1 (9-inch) torte.

Sheila Says: Sheila says she uses disposable cake pans in the size as close to 9 inches that she can find. She says they are usually smaller, but it’s close enough. Also, Sheila says when she assembles the cake, she puts a wooden skewer through the middle to help keep the cake together because it has a tendency to slide with all that whipped creamy goodness.

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Tiramisu [terror-me-sue]

My failed attempts at tiramisu are beginning to compete with the number of “Fast and Furious” movies—both edging closer to infinity without the makings of one successful attempt. Please make it stop! However, recipe blunders (i.e. my tiramisu attempts = fail) are the very reason why food blogs exist because they include what’s not necessarily explained in a recipe, such as possible mishaps as told from personal experiences. I can reveal to you my screw-ups, so that you don’t have to go through the same trials and tribulations that I did. I think this is the same mentality behind our parents’ wholehearted effort to dissuade us from the frivolous, counterproductive activities of our youth in the hopes that we will one day become fine, upstanding citizens. Sadly and more often than not, most of us don’t listen and are forced to learn the hard way. So, if you are one of those hardheaded individuals, then skip this section and go straight to the recipe. I should warn you: they don’t call it Terror-Me-Sue for nothing [insert evil laughter].

Here’s the dealio—Tiramisu is a delicious Italian dessert concoction that coincidentally means “carry me up” or “to heaven.” And that it does when made properly. It reigns as one of my top three favorite desserts of all time. I can’t recall the other two at the moment. Considered a dessert mélange (a.k.a. mixture), tiramisu is composed of sponge cake or ladyfingers that have been dipped in a coffee-Marsala (a fortified wine similar to Sherry or Port) mixture, layered with mascarpone (a buttery-rich, milky-white cheese that I like to think of as cream cheese’s richer, smarter, and overall more attractive cousin) and grated chocolate. My mouth is watering as I type. One moment…

Okay, I’m back. I had to get a snack.

Once upon a time, oh about 5 years ago, I decided to try my hand at this delicious, coffee-infused dessert. Naturally, I consulted the recipe works of Italian celebrity chef persona, Giada De Laurentiis, because she seemed as trustworthy as any on Food Network at the time. Her recipe appeared to be straightforward, and I actually watched the episode when she prepared it. Thus, I thought I would have it in the bag or, at the very least, somewhere close, perhaps dangling out of the bag with a little spilling onto the countertop. As to whether or not this first attempt was moderately successful, I really cannot say. It took me so long to make the darn thing that I may or may not have drunk too much wine in the process. I should add that I do not recommend or condone such behavior. My motto is everything in moderation from shoes to booze, excluding my surplus collection of tiny figurines.

This is a French press. Isn't she pretty?!

Now for my second attempt—well, it was a complete and utter disaster. While “moist” is a word that most people hate to hear, in terms of cakes and other pastries, the word is indicative of utter superiority. As for tiramisu, this is not so much the case. I followed Giada’s instructions, every smiley-faced dotted “i” to a “T”—dunking those spongy ladyfingers into a mixture of cooled espresso (or my rendition of it using freshly ground espresso beans brewed in a French press) and dark rum (or Amaretto, an almond-flavored liqueur and the only liquor we had, which was located/hidden on the top of the cabinets). Apparently, those ladyfingers were thirsty because in no time all the liquid was absorbed. In the delicate and profound words of Lisa Rinna, they were “dripping!” I also sort of ran out of liquid before running out of the fingers, so I improvised a bit, which wasn’t pretty.

Anyways, after refrigerating for the appropriate amount of time 2 to 8 hours which fell in the middle of watching “Stop-Loss,” an MTV movie I do not recommend, I took the plunge with my spoon and discovered a slimy, moist consistency of coffee-flavored goo. Alas, I was unable to identify it as anything remotely reminiscent of tiramisu. It was a sad, sad day indeed. I was left heartbroken by my second failed attempt at my beloved tiramisu. I also had to settle for a spoonful of instant vanilla pudding with mini chocolate chips for dessert and, not to mention, endure the lack of continuity throughout the movie “Stop-Loss.”

Joseph-Gordan Levitt is in Stop-Loss (not recommended), and he's also in this movie (recommended).

Today is a new day, and I’ve garnered up enough courage to try one last time—same recipe and same strive for victory. However, I have come away from these fruitless endeavors with a newfound insight. Mainly, I’ve come to the conclusion that one needs to make sure that their coffee/espresso is completely cool before dunking those delicate lady fingers, or else they will turn to mush. And mush = :(.  So, this time I’m going to brew the coffee, and then allow it to completely cool in the fridge. Also, I may spring for something else besides Amaretto, like maybe Marsala or dark rum as suggested in the recipe. For my last failed attempt, I purchased a certain brand of ladyfingers that seem to be made of fluff and angel dust. In other words, I’m pretty sure if I’d left the bag open, they would just float away like balloons. So, I’m in pursuit of something with a little more sustenance. Cross your fingers, and here’s to hoping that third time’s a charm.

To be continued…

SIDENOTE: Tiramisu can be a rather expensive dessert to make. Between the Marsala, mascarpone, store-bought ladyfingers and bittersweet chocolate, you are throwing down some serious bucks just to watch it turn into nothing short of a die-sert catastrophe—hence, my immense frustration at these failed attempts as well as my reason for letting you in on possible mishaps. In conclusion, when made properly, it will undoubtedly “carry you up to heaven.”

This blog is brought to you by—LEGOs, Marisa’s chocolate chunk cupcakes with peanut butter icing, and moving.

Tiramisu

6 egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar

1 pound mascarpone cheese

1 ½ cups strong espresso, cooled*

2 teaspoons dark rum

24 packaged ladyfingers

½ cup bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

  1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of espresso and mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum. Dip each ladyfinger into espresso for only 5 seconds. Letting the ladyfingers soak too long will cause them to fall apart. Place the soaked ladyfingers on the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, breaking them in half if necessary in order to fit the bottom.
  3. Spread evenly ½ of the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.
  4. Cover tiramisu with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle with chocolate shavings. Yield: 6-8 servings

*Not just cooled but COLD!

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Heavenly Deposits

**WARNING: Sentimental Overload**

My family has many traditions aside from those reminiscent of a Hank Williams Jr.’s song. My favorite family traditions are, of course, the edible kind, and nothing says edible tradition like Christmas. This cookie recipe is usually made only at Christmas or for special occasions, such as showers—bridal and baby to be exact. Lately, I’ve hosted a fair amount of these types of showers. As my sometimes perceptive roommate Matt says, “You need to stop having friends who get married and have babies.” However, the most recent shower was for my brother and sister-in-law who are having a baby girl, and I cannot wait to begin my role as the crazy auntie. Though they have yet to decide on a name, I’ve decided that regardless of their name choice, I’m going to call her Charlie. For no reason other than I think it’s cute and endearing.

For Charlie’s shower, I made these cookies, which have about as many aliases as my grandmother. My grandmother was a lady in every respect of the word, and by a fluke of coincidence, most of my cousins called her Lady. Alas, my brother couldn’t quite pronounce “Lady” and just got the “d” sound, which transpired into our name for her, Dee Dee.

Dee Dee actually taught me to make these cookies, and a couple weeks before Christmas every year, I would go over to her house and bake batches of these and a variety of other treats for the holiday festivities. But no matter what types of cookies we made, these were always the favorite, and the tin canisters filled with them were always the first to empty. The only thing left behind was a light dusting of powdered sugar, which is one of the reasons why my grandmother referred to these cookies as Angel Fingers. The other reason was for their narrow, curved crescent shape, much like a finger. Other family members called them Lady Fingers, but much to the disapproval of my grandmother, my dad and uncle called them Angel Turds because of their slightly turdish disposition.

During one of our pre-Christmas baking endeavors, Dee Dee and I were preparing the treats, and she gave me the task of labeling the tins. I drew pictures of the treats with their respective names written beneath on label stickers. However, I had a vision as I was labeling the Angel Fingers/Lady Fingers/Wedding Cookies/Angel Turds *snickers* and wrote “Heavenly Deposits” onto the label. Dee Dee actually approved the terminology, finding it much more acceptable, and we shared a good laugh.

Here’s the thing about my grandmother that I loved, she was always seen as a stern, sharp-witted lady who held her own, but as I grew older and I suppose she did as well, I discovered we actually shared a similar humor. I’d come a long way from being “meaner than a junk yard dog,” which was what she told her neighbor about me when I was the ripe-disgruntled age of five. By the time I was a ripe-disgruntled teenager, I acted the same way around her as I did with my friends, meaning that I acted a bit nutty, which didn’t seem to faze her. She even humored my Louis Armstrong impersonation although she also expressed some worry that I may strain my vocal chords by singing in such a deep, raspy voice.

That's me, "meaner than a junk yard dog," in my grandmother's lap.

After my grandmother passed away, my cousin Ginny and I were chatting, and she asked, “Did you think you were Lady’s favorite?” I shrugged my shoulders, but in my head was thinking—Of course, I was her favorite. She even called me The Princess. Ginny went on to say, “Well, I always thought I was, and that’s what I loved about her. We each thought we were the favorite grandchild. She made every one of us feel special.”

She was right. My grandmother had a way of making each grandchild feel like they held a special part of her heart, which I believe to be a real sensation. So if one day I become a crazy grandmother, I hope I can bestow upon my grandchildren that exact feeling of being—the one, the favorite, the princess. Heavenly Deposits seems like a rightful name for these cookies now more than ever, because it does seem as though a little piece of heaven rains down on me when I’m making them. It’s as if Dee Dee comes down to take a short visit with me, and if I’m really quiet, I can almost feel her strong, slender hands guiding mine through the dough.

A candid depiction of my early years--I'm the Indian Princess, and, yes, that is a trash can on my brother’s head.

SIDENOTE: No mixers or other electronic devices are needed to make these cookies. It’s way more fun to cream the butter and sugar using your hands. First, though, you should break up the butter using a fork. Fork it, if you will. Then get your hands dirty. I mix the dough into one giant ball, and then pinch off pieces to shape into crescents. These cookies are best a week after you make them, so they are perfect to make ahead of time and store, using waxed paper or aluminum foil to separate layers, in a tightly sealed container. Also, don’t forget to label the container whatever name choice tickles your family’s fancy.

This blog is brought to you by—Kleenex, the comforting scent of bar soap, and fond memories of the late and GREAT Mary Sowell Hegler (also known as Mama by her three sons—the pharmacist, the preacher, and the dentist, Lady by a majority of the grandchildren, Dee Dee by my brother and I, Mrs. Hegler by the students she taught in her 30 years of teaching, and Mother Mary by her loving husband.

Heavenly Deposits

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 stick margarine, at room temperature

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Powdered sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix until everything comes together and a dough is formed. Add nuts and mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Shape into 1-inch crescents and place on greased baking sheets. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly brown around edges.
  4. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar. Yield: approximately 4 dozen (depending on the size of the cookies)

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B-A-N-A-N-A-S Banana Pudding

Thanks to Gwen Stefani’s song “Hollaback Girl” we all know how to spell “bananas.” In this particular catchy yet emotionally-detached song, bananas means “the sh#t.” Rachel Zoe, reality star of a caffeine- and fashion- induced BRAVO show, also uses the word “bananas” in a similar context. So, if you ever find yourself in spelling bee and your word is bananas, think Gwen: “B-A-N-A-N-A-S,” and if you are still drawing a blank, think of the word usage in a sentence by Mrs. Zoe, “That’s bananas!” All this talk of bananas has gotten my potassium down and my stomach churning from hunger.

Summertime brings out the sweet tooth in me, and smooth, chilled desserts are a necessity when it comes to combating the dripping South Carolina humidity. When you begin to think of all the cool, refreshing treats available during the summertime, the healthy alternatives are few and far between. Though some might argue with me, I’m going to go on the record and say that banana pudding isn’t the worst dessert you could choose to indulge a sweet tooth hankering. However, what type of banana pudding and what ingredients you use does make a huge difference in the calorie/fat department. I was going to avoid making a cliché summertime + bathing suit= 😦 reference. However, since I’ve been watching a lot of Jillian Michaels screaming the pounds off of people in order to motivate myself when running* on the tready, I feel obligated to say that moderation is the key to being diet free. I just made that up. However, I do feel as though at any moment Jillian could come barging into my apartment, rip the bag of Cheetos out of my hands and yell, “Processed foods will kill you!”

I confiscated this particular recipe from the Southern Living vault years ago, and it has become a go-to recipe for friend and family gatherings during the summertime. It’s easy and mighty tasty. Also, you can buy reduced-fat or fat-free alternatives to most of the ingredients (i.e. fat-fat sour cream, Cool Whip lite, etc.). I recommend reduced-fat rather than fat-free products, but that’s just my personal taste preference. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own whipped topping by whipping together 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar, and a teaspoon vanilla extract. You can also double this recipe for entertaining a larger group and make it fancy by preparing it in a trifle dish or in individual fluted glasses. As the emaciated Rachel Zoe would so eloquently put it, this banana pudding is “Bananas!”

SIDENOTE: I happen to love Gwen Stefani, and No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom is definitely one of my favorite albums of all time. I also shamelessly watched the first season of The Rachel Zoe Project and lapped up every “I die!” and “That’s bananas!” statement made. As far as Jillian Michaels is concerned, she has pretty hair, and I don’t eat Cheetos…ever**!

*running= walking

**blatant lie

Bananas Banana Pudding

1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

½ cup sour cream

1 ¾ cup milk

Vanilla wafers

3 medium bananas, sliced

1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed

  1. Beat together pudding mix, sour cream, and milk at a low speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until thickened.
  2. Line the bottom of a 2 ½-quart bowl with vanilla wafers. Alternate layers of bananas, pudding, and whipped topping. Repeat layers beginning with vanilla wafers and ending with whipped topping. Yield: 4-6 servings

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Spooning

Let’s play a little guessing game entitled Name That Food. Ready, set, guess! You can put it on a sandwich, eat it by the spoonful, add it to a variety of baked goods and desserts, and use it in a wide range of pranks. What is it? No, it’s not mayonnaise though delicious by the spoonful [implied sarcasm]. Yes, it could be peanut butter, but it’s not. I’m speaking ever so candidly about the delightful, delicious, de-lovely, NUTELLA!

While Nutella has been available in the US for some time, it wasn’t until I was “studying” abroad in the fine country of Australia that I began a slight obsession with this smooth, rich chocolate-hazelnut spread. I actually did eat it by the spoonful, and unfortunately, it’s not a miracle food that when eaten in large quantities, causes one to shed the pounds. Quite the contrary I found. However, it is dan dan good, and in moderation, like so many of life’s grand delights, it is a perfectly sweet treat. And any food that you can eat straight out of the container with a spoon, well, I’m for it!

You can jazz up your breakfast or snack time by spreading some velvety Nutella on breads, bagels, English muffins, waffles, toast, croissants or crêpes (which I like to pronounce creepies). The following recipe is a fun snack or dessert concoction that not only highlights the sweet goodness of Nutella, but also the bright burst of summertime favorites, strawberries. All of this deliciousness is sandwiched between the food of angels, or specifically slices of angel food cake. In the words of the beloved, Southern fried Paula Deen, “Your family’s gonna love it.”

 

SIDENOTE: Nutella was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing. So, being the brilliant entrepreneur that he was, Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply. That, friends, is how Nutella came to be. Cue the-more-you-know star.

Strawberry Nutella Sandwiches

¼ cup Nutella

8 (½-inch) thick slices angel food cake [from 1 (10.5-ounce) loaf]

8 fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Powdered sugar, to garnish

  1. Spread Nutella over one side of all the angel food cake slices. Arrange the sliced strawberries over 4 cake slices. Cover with the remaining slices, chocolate side down.
  2. Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook each cake sandwich until the cake is crisp and golden, about two minutes. Cut each sandwich in half, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 halves)

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