There are a lot of reasons I need comfort food at the moment, but at the very top of the list is the number of people still missing in Japan. The live footage has been unforgettable, imprinted on my brain and inside my heart. If you would like to help the relief efforts in Japan: Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 or click this link to donate online.
The first thing I think about when there is a natural disaster, selfish as it may be, is what would I do if I were separated from my children and something like this occurred. My answer is always the same; I don’t have the foggiest idea. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to see your entire city being swept away by mass amounts of water, knowing that your child’s school is possibly somewhere under water. It’s more than I can handle trying to imagine and yet so many people around the world have lived through disasters that are beyond comprehension to someone like me.
As a young person or as someone without children, you mentally list all of the things you want to do or see in your lifetime. You think of far off countries that you have not been to or one of the Wonders of the world that you’ve only seen in photographs, but once you have children, your perspective is never the same.
When it boils right down to it, all you really want to do in life is to raise your children, watch them grow and be there for them when they need you most. You could really care less about what you haven’t seen in that big world out there. You just care about what you haven’t seen in your tiny little universe you call your family; that you haven’t seen them graduate from high school, go to their prom, get married and have their own children.
A blog seems immeasurably inconsequential in times like these, but real food is never inconsequential. Fussy food, yes…but food that sticks to your ribs, keeps you sustained and fills your soul is never trivial. I guess everyone has a different version of comfort food. It depends on your culture, what was cooked for you when you were growing up and what gives you peace and satisfaction. Macaroni and cheese, noodle Kugel and puddings of any sort make me feel comforted.
So when I want to share comfort, I logically think of making a beautiful, creamy banana pudding. This one is light on calories but so packed with flavor and richness that you will forget it’s not sinful. The vanilla wafers soak in the luscious pudding, softening them up a bit and if you get your bite just right, you end up with a nice little slice of banana, a creamy dollop of pudding, a spongy cookie and a bit of the sweet meringue. This pudding is heaven on earth and that’s pretty much what anyone needs right about now when the earth is far from heavenly.
I wish desperately I could package up some comfort food for all those who need it. I guess my best bet is to continue to give to the Red Cross, make donations when needed and give my time to my local community which also has individuals who need my help. To those of you out there who reach much further than that I am so grateful. Here’s an “e” bowl of creamy Banana pudding from me to you.
Banana Cream Pie Pudding
Taken directly from Cooking Light
Makes approximately 10 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
2 1/2 c. 1% milk
1 14oz. can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 t. vanilla extract
3 c. sliced ripe bananas
45 reduced-fat vanilla wafers
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 c. granulated sugar
For the pudding: On the stove top, set to medium-low heat, dump the flour and salt into a medium-sized sauce pan. Whisk together to disperse salt. SLOWLY, add the 1% milk, whisking as you go, gradually incorporating all the flour as you pour the milk. Next, pour in the sweetened condensed milk and whisk together. Add your egg yolks and whisk. Once the ingredients are smooth and mixed together, you can use a wooden spoon to CONSTANTLY stir the pudding mixture, scraping the sides of the pan often. Turn up your heat to medium now and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir so no solidified clumps end up anywhere in your pudding.
Once thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Using a 2 quart baking dish or several smaller dishes (like mine above…made four large-sized individual dishes), layer the sliced bananas to cover the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/2 of the pudding on top of the bananas and layer the vanilla wafers over the pudding. Repeat the bananas and pudding. I did not repeat the cookie layer, but you can if you wish to. I wanted more pudding and less cookie in mine.
Turn your oven on to 325 at this point. Place the four egg whites into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. On medium speed, at first, beat the egg whites, gradually increasing the speed until soft peaks form. Slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time, add your sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Spread your meringue over the pudding and using a back of a large spoon, create “waves” or a little peak at the top. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes if baking a large casserole dish or if making smaller ones, bake for about 10-12 minutes, checking on the puddings and looking for your meringue to turn a little golden and a bit light-brown in areas. Let the puddings set for 30 minutes cooling before serving. Ideally, these can be refrigerated after fully cooled and eaten later. The puddings really develop more of the banana flavor if left in the fridge over night.