Heavenly Meringue Topped Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding

Let’s talk about Banana Pudding. The real deal, not what I seem to be encountering recently. The Southern iconic dessert I grew up eating in West Tennessee, made by both my Grandmother and Mother, started with a homemade vanilla custard pudding layered with vanilla wafer cookies and lots of bananas, topped with peaks of meringue baked until golden brown and is my absolute favorite dessert.

How and when banana pudding recipes took a wrong turn I cannot say, but they did so, along with homemade fudge and biscuits.  The list could go on and on, but that is for another day.

Often what is  called banana pudding is made with store-bought custard or pudding mixed with a pre-made whipped topping, a scant representation of wafer cookies and bananas added to the mix and topped with additional whipped topping. Not whipped cream, but whipped topping. This is not banana pudding, this is a dessert made with bananas and some fake stuff.

This recipe for banana pudding is so easy you may not even have to go to the grocery except to buy the vanilla wafers and bananas! The rest is just basic pantry ingredients.

I use “Nilla Vanilla Wafers”, ripe, but not over ripe, bananas, egg yolks for the pudding and the whites for the topping. The pudding takes only minutes to thicken and the meringue takes even less time to whip. From start to finish you will spend about 30 minutes to create this heavenly delicious dessert.

A generous portion of all the ingredients layered in a deep dish….

….egg whites, vanilla extract and sugar whipped together until the meringue “holds a peak” and is piled on top, ready for the oven.

Golden browned meringue to die for. Eat it warm from the oven or chilled. Heavenly good.

Heavenly Meringue Topped Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar for pudding + 1/4 cup sugar for the meringue
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 5-6 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 box vanilla wafer cookies (you will need about 30-40 depending on your baking dish shape)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in the top of a double boiler pan.
  3. Whisk in the milk and egg yolks. Turn heat to medium high. Cook over boiling water, whisking constantly for about 10-12 minutes or until custard pudding has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  4. Beginning with a layer of pudding on the bottom of the baking dish, add a layer of wafer cookies and then a layer of sliced bananas. Repeat layering until your dish is filled, finishing with a layer of pudding. How many layers will depend on shape and size of dish you use. I used a 2 quart deep casserole dish.
  5. In a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, slowly add in 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, beating the meringue hold a stiff peak. This takes about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Top banana pudding with all the meringue, creating “meringue peaks” with the back of a spoon and “sealing” the meringue to the edges of the filling. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until meringue is golden browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temp or chilled. Keeps a few days in the refrigerator.

Based on the basic recipe on the side of the box of Nabisco Nilla Wafer cookies sold everywhere.

http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Good Things Lentil-Tomato Soup with Bok Choy and Lemon

This past week I often wondered “is it me?” or “is it them?” when pondering the roller coaster world of photo shoots. To put it mildly this past week was one for the books in all ways. I am still reeling a bit from the drama, the multitudes on all the various sets, the daily mental Rorschach test I needed to do to keep things balanced. Do you have weeks like that?

Along with “the crazy” there are some very good things afoot….one good this weekend is that we “spring forward”into Daylight Savings time and I, for one, love it when I get that extra hour of natural light at the end of the day.  It was also International Women’s Day this past week. I hope you celebrated all the great women in your lives… mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends, every last one.  Another good thing was I made comforting, healthy, warm and cozy lentil soup. When the going gets tough, the tough make soup! Soup and laughter can get you through a lot.

Red Lentils, tomatoes, broth, chopped fresh bok chop, lemon juice all cooked together with some herbs served piping hot with an additional squeeze of fresh lemon and toasted baguette slices. Easy, quick and cozy.

Lentils are full of good things as well. An edible legume, they are rich in complex carbohydrates which will boost metabolism and help burn body fat. The are a good source of fiber, low in fat and are good sources of folate and magnesium. Lentils are gluten-free as well. You can have a pot of lentils ready to eat in about 30 minutes more or less which is another good thing.

The lemons add a wonderful flavor layer to this soup which is a cross of tomato soup and lentil soup with a bok choy twist. Enjoy. I you  have leftover, freeze for later. It’s nice to have some good things ready and waiting for when the days get tough!

Good Things Lentil-Tomato Soup with Bok Choy and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of dried red lentils (or any other)
  • 1 can of cherry tomatoes or chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • Juice of two lemons
  • 2 to 3 cups water as needed
  • 1 bunch of bok choy, trimmed and chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • lemon wedges for serving
  • toasted baguette slices for serving

Directions:

  1. Rinse lentils well in mesh strainer. Place in a stock pot.
  2. Add can of tomatoes with juice, garlic cloves, broth and lemon juice to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to simmer. Cook, stirring every now and then, until lentils are just beginning to soften, 20 minutes or so. Add water as lentils cook if needed.
  3. Stir in chopped bok choy and cook for another 10 minutes or until lentils are soft but not mushy.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Serve piping hot in bowls with lemon wedges for squeezing into soup and toasted baguette slices.
  5. Note: You can freeze leftovers for later if you like or enjoy for lunches later in the week.

Teresa Blackburn.    www. teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

One Pot Chicken with Creamy Cassoulet Beans

For a split second or two I wanted to believe that the days would be getting warmer…there was evidence of this last week when Nashville was in the high 60’s, low 70’s, but alas that is not to be…yet. Gloomy…dreary….chilly…or depending on how you look at it, cozy…homey….toasty is what we have. A good time for making a substantial “One Pot Chicken with Creamy Cassoulet Beans” meal.

I know I have brought this up before, but have you ever been to “Lazzaroli’s Pasta Shop and Italian Market”? It is one of Nashville’s culinary jewels. Located on 5th Avenue North, in Historic Germantown, in an unassuming building, the small space is chock full of freshly made pastas, homemade sauces, every shelf is full of bottles of incredible vinegars, canned tomatoes and olive oils to die for. Cool-cases of cheeses and meats. Coveted small jars of Luxardo cherries, boxes of well-priced Maldon Salt, containers of duck fat and a multitude of Rancho Gordo Beans. The list is long, my blog posts are usually not, so do yourself a favor and make a food pilgrimage. Check their website for days they are open and hours.

I have been familiar with Rancho Gordo dried beans for many years and have cooked them often, but when I spotted these Classic Cassoulet Beans last week at Lazzarolis, reading the label front and back, captivated me.

One large pot with chicken pieces, carrots, tomatoes, broth, the cassoulet beans, lemons and herbs all cooking slowly from early in the day to evening. The chicken will be falling-off-the-bone and juicy, the beans creamy-firm.

A sprinkle of fresh thyme, a warm, freshly made baguette, wine and thou….Bon Appetit.

 

One Pot Chicken with Creamy Cassoulet Beans

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Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. of skin-on bone-in chicken pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil for browning chicken pieces
  • 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 4 cups chicken broth and 1 to 3 cups water to be added as beans cook
  • 1 lb. Rancho Gordo dried Cassoulet Beans (or any dried white bean) soaked for about 4 hours in warm water before cooking…overnight is fine also
  • 3 bay leaves
  • a handful of fresh thyme, divided
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 can of cherry tomatoes with juice or 1 can of chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 1 bag of ready to cook baby carrots
  • 1 lemon sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add in sliced garlic and cook for a few minutes.
  2. Generously season chicken with sea salt and black pepper and add to the pan, working in batches,  brown on both sides until the skin is somewhat crisp.  Set chicken aside, loosely covered.
  3. Scrape oil and garlic from the pan into a heavy bottomed pot large enough to hold the beans, chicken and vegetables.
  4. Add chicken broth and 1 cup of water to the pot along with the soaked and drained beans. Toss in the bay leaves and half the fresh thyme and bring to a boil. Turn heat to simmer and cook beans for about 3 hours, or until they are just beginning to soften. Add water as needed. Cook time may vary depending on your pot and stove.  Check beans every now and then.
  5. When the beans are just beginning to soften add the tomatoes, carrots and chicken pieces to the pot. Nestle the chicken down into the broth and beans. Add more water if needed. Bring to a low simmer. Cover pot for about 1 hour, stirring gently every now and then.
  6. Remove lid when beans are soft, not mushy and add in lemon slices, slightly squeezing to release the juice. Cook another 20 minutes. Check chicken for doneness. Chicken should be falling-off-the-bone.
  7. Serve in bowls with additional sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and thyme leaves along with a crusty baguette for sopping up all those juices. A full-bodied red wine is great with this dish.

Teresa Blackburn.   teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

 

 

Oui, Oui Dark Chocolate Mendiants E.A.T. 36

There are chocolates and there are chocolates.  Not all are created equally. One of my favorites for making these easy Mendiants is a French brand, Valrhona.It is fitting to use this brand as Mendiants are a French confection. You can, of course, use any good quality, bittersweet chocolate. Mendiants are so easy to make and very beautiful in their simplicity. Studded with orange peel, pistachios, sea salt, almonds, candied ginger, coconut shreds and edible gold flakes these would make a lovely, sweet Valentines gift. Oui? Oui, oui it’s as easy-as-this.

I use a double boiler pan to melt the chocolate, but you can just place in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water if you don’t have one. Gather all your add-ins while chocolate is melting in little bowls so you can work quickly while chocolate is still warm and melted.

 I drew around a small glass creating circles on a sheet of parchment paper to help me make the mendiants all about the same size. I added a dollop of melted chocolate to each circle, then spread it out with the back of a spoon and sprinkled toppings, working with one circle at a time, slightly pressing ingredients down into the still melted chocolate.

All you do is let the chocolate cool and harden. It really is as easy-as-this.

Oui, Oui Dark Chocolate Mendiants

Ingredients: (you can use all or just some of these when making your own Mendiants. I varied ingredients so they were all a little different. You can also just use whatever you have on hand…pecans, walnuts, any candied fruit, etc.)

  • 16 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup candied or dried orange peels
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon edible gold flakes, hearts, or any edible gold cake decorations
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt flakes, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes or shreds

Directions:

  1. In the top of a double boiler melt the chocolate over simmering water. Stir every so often. You can also melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water if you do not have a double boiler pan. Make sure all your pans and spoons are clean and dry with no moisture so the chocolate will not “seize”.
  2. While chocolate is melting, gather all your add-ins…nuts, fruit, etc.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a glass about 3 inches in diameter turned upside down, draw 15 circles over the paper with a pencil. These will be your “guide” for making mendiants round and approximately the same size. It’s okay if they are not perfect.
  4. When chocolate is totally melted, using a spoon, add a dollop to each circle. Spread out to the edges of your “circles” on the parchment creating chocolate disks about 1/4 inch thick, more or less. While chocolate disks are still soft, stud each with a variety of ingredients. Gently press ingredients down into the chocolate so they are embedded somewhat into the surface.
  5. Leave finished mendiants on sheet of parchment to cool and  harden completely. Serve immediately or store in a lidded container in the refrigerator for later.
  6. To give as a gift put a few in a small candy bag or box. These make great easy-to-make at home edible tokens of affection.

I first made these for a magazine article I was working on a few years ago. Since I have made them a few times as they are so beautiful and delicious and are always a welcome gift.

Teresa Blackburn.    teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Berbere Seasoned Black-eyed Peas, Greens and Chicken Sausage Soup

The anticipation and dread of deep cold weather is over. It is here with its sharp-slap windy 20 degree days and nights. It will not last long. It will  leave us and then return again and again until it has worn us down. We will have a love-hate thing with it. Our geographic location will save us from a lengthy bout of deep winter, but for now it is here.

Soup, hot steamy bowls of soup. Daily doses are called for to chase off the chill of the season as well as the chill of our political climate. This soup is good for warding off all kinds of chill in these chilly times. Ethiopian Berbere seasoning adds just the right amount of piquant.  You can easily find Berbere in most supermarkets or online these days, but if not then I have added a how-to for making your own in my printable recipe. I wasn’t very familiar with this spice until this past year. I worked on a number of cook books in which some of the recipes called for it. It is now one of my go-to spice blends for many dishes.

To quicken the cooking I used pre-soaked Black-eyed Peas.

A generous portion of  Berbere seasoning was added.

Smoked Chicken-Spinach Sausages well-charred before slicing and adding to the soup.

Serve with your favorite cornbread recipe. Stay warm, stay cozy, eat more soup.

Berbere Seasoned Black-eyed Peas, Greens and Chicken Sausage Soup

 

Ingredients:

  • 24 ounces pre-soaked black-eyed peas or dried peas soaked for a few hours before cooking
  • 32 ounces chicken broth – I used chicken bone broth,  but any will do
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes or any canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Berbere seasoning
  • 12 ounces smoked chicken sausages
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • water to add to soup if need be

Directions:

  1. Char sausages until well browned in a somewhat dry skillet. Slice into bite size pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add chicken stock and black-eyed peas to a soup pot. Bring to boil, turn to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until peas are slightly softened.
  3. Stir in crushed garlic, tomatoes, Berbere seasoning and chicken sausage. Continue to cook on simmer for another 20 minutes. Add more water or broth if soup needs it.
  4. Add in spinach leaves and cook just until wilted.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serve hot with your favorite cornbread recipe.

Recipe for making your own Berbere Seasoning (there are many variations of this online but this is a basic one).    Combine all the ingredients in a jar. Shake to blend. Store in jar with tight-fitting lid.

  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup dried red pepper (cayenne, ancho, New Mexican, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Teresa Blackburn.  www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

January Fortifications with Spicy and Aromatic DIY Infused Vodkas

I know, I know…it’s now January and “we” are supposed to show a bit of restraint. All those resolutions and all. Well it’s cold outside and the sun has not been seen here in Nashville much lately. It’s damp and dark. We need fortification!

Personally I like dark, Winter days. I call this time “hibernation with intent”. I enjoy puttering about and making stuff, such as  these incredible infused vodkas. “Blackberry-Thyme” and “Rose Petal and Pink Peppercorn”. One more full-bodied and hearty, the other more delicate and subtle. Both easy to make and very fortifying indeed.

Delicate rose petals and spicy pink peppercorns….vodka.

Juicy blackberries and herbal-scented thyme….and vodka.

Put jars in cool dark place such as closet. Shake every now and then. If you start the process on a Friday your flavored vodkas will be ready to decant for happy hour the next Friday.

Chilled, like the weather, until icy cold.

Stay cozy, Prost….Cheers…..Saluti….Skal.

DIY Boozy January

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Ingredients:

  • 4 cups vodka
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup dried rose petals (food grade)
  • 1/4 cup whole pink peppercorns

 

Directions:

  1. Pour 2 cups of vodka into 2 clean glass jars.
  2. Add to one jar the blackberries and thyme leaves. Push down into the vodka. Cover with tight-fitting lid.
  3. To second jar add rose petals and pink peppercorns. Stir. Cover with tight-fitting lid.
  4. Put both jars in a cool, dark cabinet or closet for 5 days. Shake each jar once a day.
  5. Decant each flavor of vodka by pouring through a fine mesh strainer into a measure cup. Then pour each one into glass bottles with tight-fitting lids. Stick in the freezer for a few hours. A shot will warm you up! I promise.  You can also use to make your favorite vodka cocktails.  How about as a gift? So many options.

Teresa Blackburn.     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Gelukkig Niew Jaar met Oliebollen – Happy New Year with Oliebollen

Every culture, country and region has special foods that are made for special celebrations throughout the year. For New Years the Netherlands  has Oliebollen, a wonderful, puffy fritter studded generously with currants or raisins and fried until golden brown and then dusted with powdered sugar and eaten warm. The real translation of “oliebollen” is “deep-fried doughnut balls”.  All over The Netherlands you can buy olibollen from street carts and restaurants as part of a continuing edible tradition for the winter and for New Year’s Eve in particular. Wouter always makes a batch for us to enjoy around the New Year and today was the day. So crunchy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside with that touch of sweet.  I look forward to sharing this part of his Amsterdam right here in Nashville every year.

English version in printable recipe below! This is Wouter’s old handwritten recipe in which he doesn’t use an egg or salt, although both are an ingredient!

Fried, drained, ready for powder sugar.

Here….have a bite….Happy New Year, Gelukkig New Jaar..see you in 2019.

Oliebollen

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 3/4 cup currants
  • enough vegetable oil for fry oliebollen in a deep cast iron skillet or small deep fryer
  • powdered sugar to finish

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl with the warm milk sprinkle over the yeast powder. Allow it to sit until “melted” into the milk and the top begins to get foamy.
  2. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and add the milk-yeast mixture along with the currants mixing until well blended. Set aside in a warm place for the dough to rise for about 1/2 to 1 hour.
  3. When dough has risen heat oil for frying to 350 degrees.
  4. Drop the oliebollen dough into the hot oil by tablespoons gently taking care not to splash hot oil.Work in batches and fry until puffy and golden brown. Drain well.
  5. Serve warm dusted generously with powder sugar.

Thanks to Wouter Feldbusch for sharing his recipe.

Teresa Blackburn.    www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com                     instagram @foodonfifth