Occasionally we like to do a deep dive into the recesses of our 1970s childhood memories and make something that is just not good for us. By that I mean it is a “faux recipe” — one made up mostly of processed foods and that would make Michael Pollen cringe. It’s funny how something that used to be so everyday is now an indulgence of sorts. At the top of this list is a banana dessert made of Jello instant pudding, Nilla wafer cookies, whipped cream and bananas. My husband refers to it as “white trash tiramsu.” The other night the book club gathered at my house to discuss (what else) Cooked, and I couldn’t resist serving up a big a dish of this light, fluffy, banana-y treat. It was enjoyed by all without too much guilt, and I guarantee it would be a welcome finale to any 4th of July meal.
Banana Nilla Wafer Pudding
WHAT YOU NEED:
2 small boxes of jello banana instant pudding and ingredients to make it.
1-8oz tub of cool whip whipped topping
1 box Nilla wafers
4 bananas cut in thin slices
HOW TO MAKE
1. Make the pudding according to instructions. Set aside to thicken in fridge if need be.
2. Grab a casserole dish and put a layer of cookies down on the bottom.
3. Using a spatula, spread a layer of pudding on top. Put a layer of sliced bananas on top of that, followed by whipped cream.
4. Repeat until the dish is full.
5. Chill for a few hours before serving.
If this recipe doesn’t quite jive with your current palette, here are a few more 4th of July treats to choose from:
Nothing is more satisfying than whipping up something delicious and unexpected based on ingredients you have on-hand. The other day a neighbor had a surplus of rhubarb from a food co-op delivery and gave us a few stalks. Since strawberries are a constant in our fridge, this recipe for strawberry rhubarb crisp from Ina Garten’s How Easy is That? cookbook called out. I didn’t have an orange on hand, so I improved with some lemon zest. I halved this recipe, which was easy, but gone in 24-hours.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
What You Need
4 cups fresh rhubarb, 1-inch diced (4 to 5 stalks)
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, if large
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp grated orange or lemon zest
1 tbl cornstarch
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal, such as McCann’s
12 tbl (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
How To Make
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. For the fruit, toss the rhubarb, strawberries, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the orange (or lemon) zest together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice and then mix it into the fruit. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-11-inch baking dish and place it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
3. For the topping, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles (I used my hands to mix). Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely, and bake for about an 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.
Need a last minute Father’s Day gift? Read our review, below, of The Original Craft Beer Club
Chad and I have an indulgence tradition. We love ordering beer flights whenever we discover them on menus. A beer flight is when you are given a sample size drink of five different beers to try. Luckily, we have one favorite spot in Hudson, NY that has them all time. They rotate through a variety of local beers from nearby microbreweries, and the selection is always changing. How can we create this effect at home? At first I thought what we needed was a beer flight paddle (this one from Uncommon Goods caught my eye), but we’d have to commit to opening up and drinking four bottles of beer in one sitting. That’s just not something we do very often (lightweights!). The alternative, I decided, was to join a “beer of a month” club. My thinking was that if we had a delivery of exotic beers arriving every month, we could enjoy the flavors every weekend.
THE DEAL: The Craft Beer Club, $37.75 per month. You can try it for one month or twelve, up to you! With each delivery, you get twelve bottles, comprised of four different kinds of beer from two different breweries. You can decide the delivery date(s). You can order for one month or only, a whole year, or less.
WHAT YOU’LL GET: All the beers are US-made, and each is from a small production, independent company. One of the reasons why I liked The Craft Beer Club is that all they do is beer, unlike some other beer-of-the-month clubs that are run by companies that also do other things like wine and cheese. Chad just received his first box, and it features the Flying Bison Brewing Company from Buffalo, NY and the Evil Genius Beer Company from eastern Pennsylvania. Also in the box is a one-sheet on each brewery, providing a bit of insider knowledge and the scoop on the beers within. Especially fun for a Father’s Day treat: Recipes are included! You could make a whole feast centered around the beers you just received. Ours included a cold bacon ranch pasta salad that sounds especially yummy. In addition, we got a bottle opener as “free gift” bonus.
THE UPSIDE: The beauty of the Craft Beer Club is the feeling that you’re embracing the local beer movement. It’s like a roadtrip for your taste buds delivered right to your door. We love the information included with the beers, and so far, they’ve been great. (We especially liked Rusty Chain, an amber ale from Flying Bison).
THE DOWNSIDE: If you’re giving this is a gift, the surprise element will be hard to pull off. I sent the order in Chad’s name, because it’s coming for several months and I wanted him to enjoy getting the package. But, there’s no way to include a gift card, so when it came, he didn’t know what it was or who it was from. Also, I was hoping there would be four different breweries featured a month – not four beers from two breweries. But honestly, that’s a minor a point.
THE VERDICT: If sampling local beers is a favorite part of your travel adventures, you should give the Craft Beer Club a try. Having ales and IPAs from macro breweries in your fridge will liven up any meal. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it for the well curated selection.
Visit Craftbeerclub.com or call 1-800-200-2959.
It’s the time of the year when there is only thing being offered at our farmer stands: strawberries — gorgeous, red, way-better-than-what-we’ve-been-buying all winter strawberries. I’d like to say we only eat fruits when in season from local farmers, but the truth is that our daughter eats strawberries nearly every day of the year. So when the real deal is available, well, we like to go a bit overboard, buying as many containers-full as our fridge will hold. My favorite way to eat strawberries is in an impromptu shortcake: Using ready-made biscuits (Trader Joe’s are great) and some vanilla ice-cream along with a mound of sliced berries. But strawberries don’t have to be regulated to the dessert table. This Bon Appetite recipe for Strawberry, Almond and Pea salad inspired me the other night. I couldn’t find a couple of the ingredients (pea tendrills, for example) so I made due without. It didn’t matter. With just common ingredients and quick home-made dressing, this salad was insanely delicious — and impressive! Here’s my take below:
Strawberry and Pea Salad
What You Need
For the Salad:
3 handfuls of baby arugula
1 cup of sliced strawberries
1 cup of just cooked baby peas (I used frozen, but fresh would be dandy)
1/2 cup of sliced almonds, lightly toasted in oven
For the Dressing:
2 tbls champagne vinegar (white wine is fine, too)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp whole grain mustard
salt and pepper
How To Make
1. Toast the almonds. Put on a cookie tray and bake at 300 for about 5 minutes. I used our toaster oven to do this.
2. Toss all the salad ingredients in a bowl.
3. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour over the salad — not all at first, but to taste. Toss again.
4. Serve on plates with shaved Parmesan — a must! This is what really makes the salad.
How do you eat your strawberries? Mary T likes to cook them up and serve them on pasta. Share your recipes and ideas here!
The scene: Memorial Day backyard barbeque. The situation: 25 parents, 15 people under three feet tall, and waaaaaay too many hot dogs. I knew everyone was bringing things in buns and cold tossed salads, but when I got the invite for a pot luck party, I thought, I’ll bring a baked pasta dish. It’s the one thing everyone will eat and the one thing no will think of today.
So I culled through my Pinterest recipe board and pulled out a recipe from The New York Times health section. What makes this baked pasta dish so grown up are two unexpected ingredients: saffron threads and anchovies. They gave it a layer of sophistication and paella-like flavor that kept both adults and kids coming back for more.
Here’s my take on Baked Ziti Rigate.
What You Need
1 cauliflower, leaves and stem trimmed, florets separated
Pinch of saffron threads
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and chopped
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 tbls chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 pound ziti or penne
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
How To Make
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the cauliflower and boil until the florets are tender — about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon or tongs remove the cauliflower from the water, drain and rinse with cold water. Turn off the heat but keep the water in the pot.
2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a large casserole dish.
3. When the cauliflower is cool enough to touch, crumble it with your hands into small pieces. Save in a bowl.
4. Meanwhile, place the saffron in a small bowl and add 3 tbls warm water. Let soak for about 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Heat 1 tbls of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it’s fragrant, about a minute. Then, add the anchovies and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower, saffron and the water it was soaking in, and parsley, cover and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings.
7. Toss the pasta with half the cauliflower-tomato mixture and half the cheese and spoon into the baking dish. Combine the remaining cauliflower-tomato mixture with the rest of the cheese and spoon over the pasta. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top. Drizzle a little olive oil on top.
8. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbling.