I didn’t grow up eating banana pudding that I can remember. I did, however, grow up listening to a ventriloquist, Dennis Lee, during drug free week at school. He had a little monkey puppet that would sing the song “Nana Puddin”. I loved this song as a kid. I had it memorized. I was on my way to becoming the next Dennis Lee. Hmmm, that could’ve been weird. I searched YouTube high and low for the song and came up with nothing. Dang. I thought about recording it so you would know what I’m talking about, but I figured that might be a little over the top, even for me. I have no song to leave you with today. Only a recipe.

This recipe hails from Cook’s Country Magazine. My dad got me a subscription to this magazine a couple months back. It is wonderful. I highly recommend it. Their tagline is “Recipes that work.” How many times have you made a recipe that just down right flopped? Well, the people at Cook’s Country cook through all the good and the bad recipes and provide you with the best recipe. I’m a fan of their show on PBS as well. They have the best tips and tricks out there.

Here’s the “Rich and Creamy” banana pudding recipe. I’ve added my comments in (parentheses). What’s different about this recipe? You roast the bananas. This process draws out the best flavors of the banana. I will never make banana bread or pudding with overripe bananas again. From this day forward, I will roast my bright yellow bananas. As always, read the entire recipe before starting. Pudding can be tricky. But it’s worth the work.

Banana Pudding
recipe from Cook’s Country serves 12

7 slightly underripe bananas (this means bright yellow, no brown spots)
1 1/2 c. sugar
8 large egg yolks
6 tbsp. cornstarch
6 c. half and half
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 (12 oz.) box of vanilla wafers

1 c. heavy cream
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Roast bananas. Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat oven to 325°. Place 3 unpeeled, (bright yellow) bananas on a baking sheet. Bake until skins are completely black, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 min.
2. Make Pudding. Meanwhile, whisk 1/2 c. sugar, egg yolks, and cornstarch in medium bowl until smooth. Bring half and half, remaining sugar, and salt to simmer over medium heat in large sauce pan. (I prefer to use a dutch oven.) Whisk 1/2 c. simmering half and half mixture into yolk mixture. (Pour half and half mixture slowly and whisk constantly and quickly. You don’t want your yolks to curdle.) Slowly whisk tempered yolk mixture into saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick and large bubbles appear at surface, about 2 minutes. (The bubbles are also referred to as lava bubbles. They will rupture. Be warned.) Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
3. Process pudding. Transfer pudding to food processor. Add warm peeled roasted bananas and 2 tbsp. lemon juice, and process until smooth. (Don’t over process. After making this, I would recommend first processing bananas and lemon jiuce, and then adding in pudding. Over processing the pudding breaks down the compounds you just built in the heating process and leads to a thinner consistency.) Scrape into large bowl and place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding. Refrigerate until slightly cool, about 45 min. (It can stay refrigerated longer if needed.)
4. Assemble and chill. Cut remaining bananas into 1/4″ slices and toss in bowl with remaining lemon juice. Spoon one quarter of pudding into a 3-quart trifle dish and top with layer of cookies, layer of sliced bananas, and another layer of cookies. Repeat twice, ending with pudding. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until wafers have softened, atleast 8 hrs. or up to 2 days. (I followed the same steps but made individual trifles. I ended with cookies instead of pudding, and it softened just fine.)
5. Top and serve. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream, sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form, about 2 min. Top banana pudding with whipped cream and serve.

Have you been sweating alot lately? Feeling like it’s too hot to enjoy the great outdoors? You want to wear your swimsuit to work? Oh wait, you don’t want to be caught dead in your swimsuit? You’ve been thinking, man, oatmeal would really help me shed those last couple pounds. But it’s just too hot to eat this time of year. Think again, my friends, think again. Let me introduce you to Swiss Oatmeal.

I first met Swiss Oatmeal on my weekly breakfast date with my sister. It was a Saturday. We pulled into Corner Bakery thinking we were just going to get breakfast and chat. Little did I know, my world was about to change. I ordered Swiss Oatmeal. It sounded so … European. How could I resist? It was love at first sight. Or should I say bite? Yep, I just said bite.

My affair with Swiss Oatmeal continued over the years. At first, I would just eat it on the weekends with my sister. Eventually I decided I needed to learn how to make it myself. Once a week just wasn’t cutting it. After much experimentation, I figured out how to make this in the comfort of my own home.

Let me tell you a bit about Swiss Oatmeal before I give away the recipe. You eat it chilled not hot. It wont make you sweat. It never sits in a microwave or a pan on the stove top. Just add water. It’s creamy. It’s healthy. It will help you shed those extra pounds. It’s similar to Muesli. It’s very very filling. It’s got all the fiber Dr. Oz has been telling you to eat. It’s sweet. It’s delicious. It has a very interesting history. It’s the easiest recipe on this blog to date. You’re about to fall in love.

Here’s what you’ll need, plus yogurt.

Swiss Oatmeal
one serving

1/2 c.-ish of Old Fashioned oats
Sprinkle of Craisins
Sprinkle of Currants or Raisins
1/2 Banana diced
1/4 Granny Smith apple diced
Brown Sugar to taste
2 spoonfuls or so Plain Yogurt

1. The night before, place oats in a bowl. Cover oats just below the top with water (pictures to follow). Refrigerate overnight.
2. In the morning, drain the water if necessary.
3. Combine ingredients into the oats—yogurt, currants, craisins, banana, apple, brown sugar. Stir.
4. Eat and fall in love.

• We use a Pyrex bowl and cover with lid. If there’s excess water in the morning, we use the lid to help drain it out. Though, we’ve gotten so good lately that we rarely have to drain anymore.
• We only make enough for the next day.
• Yogurt is the paste that holds everything together. We use Mountain High Yoghurt—Plain, low fat. You can buy this at Costco or Whole Foods. Using plain yogurt allows us to determine the sweetness.
• We prefer currants to raisins in Swiss Oatmeal. They are smaller in size but taste very similar. You can buy them at Whole Foods in the bulk section.
• Use Old Fashion cut oats as compared to Quick Cooking oats. Because Quick Cooking oats are smaller in size, they become more mooshy overnight in water. Bleh.
• Since we eat alot of oats, we buy them in bulk at Costco.
• This is another one of those recipes you can make your own. There is no exact science, so experiment. Add berries, add granola for some crunch, add nuts, add flavored yogurt, add greek yogurt, use honey instead of brown sugar, add wheat germ, and the list could go on and on.

Above: Oats without water. Below: Oats with water.

I have been blog hopping left and right these days. Too bad all this hopping doesn’t burn calories. There are so many well done blogs out there. I’m jealous. The newest one I have been drooling over is Joy Ever After. Looks like she dabbles in some of my favorite things—cooking, crafting, design, etc.—so of course I love her blog. It’s inspiring. Her pictures and photography are excellent, something I am trying to beef up myself. Kevin is helping me out in this area. He got a new hefty duty camera last Christmas and bought a sweet lens with a low f-stop. Now we are trying to learn this intricate piece of machinery. Before I was using my canon point-and-shoot, on a tripod, in manual mode. It did OK. But hopefully you start to see some improvements.

So, while blog hopping, I came across this cute recipe for blueberry muffins. Cute recipe? Yep, she designed a cute recipe card for the muffins. So cute it made me want to make them this here Saturday morning. Lucky me, we had a huge bowl of blueberries in the fridge. As always, I made some tweaks to the recipe. Well, maybe alot. It all started because I didn’t have a lemon, which her recipe called for. And then I made a couple more tweaks. And a couple more. So here’s what happened….

Blueberry Muffins
makes 12

1 c. AP unbleached Flour
1 c. Whole Wheat Flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. plain yogurt
1/2 c. canola oil (or some other heart healthy oil)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. fresh blueberries
2 tbsp. turbinado
2 tbsp. flour
dash of cinnamon
1 tbsp. slightly melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Line muffin tin with liners.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt).
3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients (yogurt, oil, egg, and vanilla).
4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until just combined. I did this all by hand. No need to get out your mixer.
5. Fold in blueberries.
6. Fill muffin tin with batter. I use a spring release scoop to make sure each muffin is about the same size.
7. In a separate bowl, combine turbinado, flour, cinnamon, and slightly melted butter until crumby.
8. Sprinkle mixture on top of muffins, and bake for 23 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, and serve!

They were good. Notice Kevin ate two.

My coworkers and I threw a baby shower this week for our dear friend Kim. She and her husband Dan have a little boy on the way. No offense to all the men out there, but boy baby showers are a lot harder to plan than little girl showers where all you need are different shades of pink, some polka dots, cute girly baby outfits, eww’s & aww’s, cupcakes, and you’re set.Mary, my coworker, came up with the theme for the shower— The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and it turned out excellent! Cupcakes still made their appearance at the shower, there were  plenty of cute little boy outfits, and an abundance of eww’s & aww’s!

The idea for the cupcakes came from Coco Cake. It is a lot easier than it looks. In order to create this, make cupcakes (we had 48 total). It has become a staple in my kitchen to use Cake Love‘s recipes for the chocolate cupcakes (LaTonya, another coworker, brought in the vanilla cupcakes). To decorate the cupcakes, I use the Wilton Dessert Decorator Pro—it makes icing cupcakes super easy. Drop different shades of green in the dispenser to add some variation in color as you ice. I made a cream cheese buttercream (cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, a dash of salt, and food coloring). After icing, use brown long sprinkles along the outer edge of the cupcakes for his hair. Now, onto the head. It does get a little trickier here. You can buy fondant and color it. Or, you can make it. Can you guess what I did? I had to try it myself, of course, allowing a little too much room for disaster to occur the night before the shower. Thankfully, it worked. To make the fondant, get a jar of marshmallow fluff (7-8 oz.) and add lots and lots, I mean lots, of powdered sugar. The recipe I used called for 2 cups of powdered sugar, but that had to be a lie. I used at least double. You need to get all the sticky out of the fluff so that you can roll it out smoothly without it sticking to your surface.After you have a good consistency, add in your food coloring. When rolling the fondant out, don’t be afraid to dowse your surface with powdered sugar. You can brush it off afterward, or, if you let it sit overnight, it will soak in. Decorate your head as you please, and voila, you now have a Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake!

Photos taken by Craig Taylor, a coworker of mine.

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