Why Are You Not Making These?

I was perusing Pinterest earlier this morning and something horrifying popped up, pinned by someone I follow.  My thoughts were, ‘Why are people doing this?’  The pin?  Easy Banana Pudding.  It bothers me that one will take already easy recipes and make them “Easy”.

In this post I’m going to be discussing a few things that are already super easy to make & taste way better than the “easy” versions!

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Easy as in Cool Whip and Jell-O instant banana or vanilla flavoured pudding.  *sigh*  Have you ever been to a buffet?  There are loads of buffets in the south & we have visited numerous Chinese and Southern Cuisine buffets.  They all have banana pudding and it’s this mess right here.  Ever tasted it?  It’s honestly not that great.

For an extra bit of work you could be enjoying real, from scratch banana pudding.  And the work is not all that difficult or involved, nor all that time-consuming.  It really makes a difference in taste and is so completely worth it!

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Southern Banana Pudding Recipe

I do not use cream of tartar when making my meringue and it’s just lovely, so you could skip that.  You will need a hand or stand mixer to whip up the meringue though.  One can do it by hand, as it was done in the past, but you really don’t want to.  Trust me, I’ve done it… and not all that well, I might add.

So, really in place of pudding you will be making custard.  Yummy, creamy custard.  It’s egg yolks, flour, sugar, vanilla & milk.  Do not forget to save the egg whites.  I am guilty of forgetting this!  haha  This is the difficult part, that is not truly difficult.  You must stand there with it and constantly stir it until it thickens.  If you don’t it will just become lumpy and stick and burn to the bottom.  If you’ve ever made homemade gravy (not from a packet or a jar), then it is the same basic principle.  Although probably if you are making scratch gravy, you are also familiar with scratch baking, but I digress.

The custard is made by double boiler method, but you do not need an actual double boiler to accomplish this.  You only need a saucepan with a little bit of water in the bottom and then either a metal or heavy-duty high temp glass bowl to go on top.  You can also use another saucepan.  You want it to fit down into the first pan, but only a little ways.

Then you just layer sliced bananas, vanilla wafers, and custard, until you’re done layering.  Then in place of Cool Whip, you’ll make the meringue.

Meringue, whipped cream, and butter are all similar and very, very easy to make.  But I’ll get to those in a minute.  So, meringue.  Just egg whites and sugar power whisked until stiff peaks form.  Easy and fun!  These recipes are calling for cream of tartar to help the stiff peaks form, but we only have basic spices, and I know a lot of people out there are the same.  You really can get by without it and it is not a problem.  What you can’t get by without is vanilla, you NEEDS the vanilla!  Anyways, then just gently scoop that out on top of the banana pudding and bake in the oven for a bit.

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Sure it’s “easy” to procure a package of already made Rice Krispie Treats, but really they pale in comparison to making them yourself.  And they are super easy.  I’ve been making them since I was four.

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You just need a stick of butter, a package of marshmallows, and some Rice Krispies cereal, a saucepan, a spatula, a casserole dish and a stove top.  My family is not big on having to have name brands, except in certain cases.  The cereal can be any kind of crisp rice, but I will say that the Great Value marshmallows from Wal-Mart should be avoided when making this recipe.  They are not as good as other store brands or Jet-Puffed.

So, you melt your butter in the saucepan, then add the marshmallows.  Stirring occasionally until they are all melted.  Take it off the heat, dump in your Rice Krispies, mix it up.  Then butter a casserole dish and a spatula.  Use the buttered spatula to scoop the Rice Krispie concoction into the casserole dish and spread it around.  Let it cool and harden, then cut them into squares.  Besides the cooling process (& sometimes we don’t wait, it just means they’re rather gooey), this takes all of 10 minutes or less to make from start to finish.

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Here is my own personal recipe.  One of two that were saved by our mom.  The Sister has one that came off the box and has pretty seventies flowers decorating it.  Mine came from a magazine.  Obviously you can add food colouring or turn them into pumpkins and other things, but really I just use the basic recipe here for measurements.

 

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Ah, ready to bake chocolate chip cookies.  Doesn’t really matter if it’s Pillsbury, Toll House, or store brand, you’ve seen them… & you’ve probably tried them.  We have.  I’ve used Toll House, because out of all the chocolate chip cookies I’ve baked (pre-made, bacon chocolate chip, browned butter chocolate chip, etc.) & it’s been A LOT. Toll House’s recipe is the best.

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And they are only the best if you make them yourself, following their recipe on the back of the package, and only when using the semi-sweet morsels.  But, then that’s really the best for us.  These give you crunchy cookies with soft & gooey centers.  If you want more soft-baked, then this recipe is not for you.  If you like white chocolate, then this recipe is not for you.  But if you like a crunchy, soft, not too thin, not too thick, slightly sweet, slightly salty chocolate chip cookie, then stop buying pre-made and just make this from scratch.

These are the cookies my maternal grandmother always made.  She always bought the Toll House semi-sweet morsels and used the recipe on the back of the package.  We could never make them as well as her.  The Sister & I would constantly ask her and she’d only reply, “I follow the recipe on the back.”  We were convinced she was using magic.  But no, she really did just follow the recipe.

The recipe states to mix the ingredients using an electric hand or stand mixer.  You might not think that would make a huge difference as opposed to beating by hand.  You’d be wrong.  It makes the batter light and fluffy and thus the cookies bake to perfection.  If you beat the mix by hand then these cookies are only hum-drum.  So, definitely use an electric mixer of some kind.

Pecans are listed as optional in the recipe, but we use them.  Though our grandmother never did, they give the cookies a perfect balance and they are not so sickeningly sweet, but some people dig really sweet, so just go with what you like.

I won’t link to the recipe, because you’ll have it once you buy the Toll House semi-sweet morsels.  Don’t buy another brand.  We’ve used other brands; store-bought, Ghirardelli… they’re just not as good.

But basically you’ll just cream the butter and sugar, then add the other wet ingredients.  The dry ingredients are in a separate bowl and you’ll add that, a little at a time, to the wet ingredients in the mixer.  Once done, you’ll add the chocolate chips and pecans.  Then you just bake them.  You’re spending about 5-10 minutes extra than the pre-made ready to bake.  And the taste is phenomenally better.

 

 

And I can not state this enough, but butter.  Whether the recipe calls for butter or margarine… ALWAYS use butter.  Margarine has a different flavour & will make your cookies just wrong.  And if you have old family recipes that call for oleo, it’s just butter.  I mean it wasn’t, it was a type of margarine thing; a fake butter, but just pretend it says butter and use the same measurements.

Real butter is rather easy to make, but buying it at the store is just as good.  I will say that Kerry Golds butter was sublime and tasted like what I made at home.  I would say make the real butter for spreading on bread, but in a recipe like Rice Krispie Treats or Chocolate Chip cookies, definitely go with store-bought.

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Homemade Butter Recipe

There are lots of recipes out there for making homemade butter.  I, someday, hope to try my hand at making butter in a real butter churn, which we have, but if you don’t want to get all primitive and you just want butter, there is an easy way to make it yourself.

You just need cream.  Heavy Cream really.  There are two ways to make it but both involve an electric hand or stand mixer.  The first variation is cream and salt.  But that one is more difficult, but only slightly.  The second is just cream.

So you pour the cream into the mixer and beat.  The cream will puff up and then deflate and look like scrambled eggs or cottage cheese in consistency.  Once it looks like this, stop mixing.  You’ll drain off the liquid and run the butter solid under cold water and squeeze as much liquid off as you can.  Boom, it’s butter.  The liquid will be sour, which is why you want to remove as much as you can or your butter will sour in just a few hours.  The liquid can be saved though as that is buttermilk.  Without salt you’ll have sweet cream butter, which salt, you’ll have salted butter.  It’s up to you.  I have a problem with the squeezing because my hands are so hot that the butter just wants to melt.  But it’s fun to make and easy.

 

And for vanilla… I’m not sure why I keep encountering people who have a weird aversion to vanilla.  Vanilla is glorious.  I don’t even care if you use fake vanilla extract as opposed to for real vanilla.  I hear rumour that fake vanilla contains secretions from the anal glands of beavers.  Lovely, right?  In a post about food.  Who cares!  I’ve not bothered to look it up, but ya know… just don’t think about it.

That is one voiced concern.  The other is price.  I don’t really understand that either.  I mean I understand people not having money, we don’t have a lot of it, but quality versus quantity people.

McCormick has a good vanilla extract.  Great Value from Wal-Mart does not.  I know it’s a large container for a very cheap price, but please try to forgo that.  The Dad has purchased that & it’s just terrible.  It’s probably one with the beaver stuff in it!  hahaha  But anyways, one bottle of the McCormick will last you through at least 10 bakings of something that calls for vanilla, making the price of about $5 seem very reasonable.

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Of course I would ALWAYS want real vanilla, but there is a reason it is SO expensive.  The vanilla bean is produced by an orchid that is only native to Tahiti.  It’s growth time for the bean is slow, meaning the price of the beans is quite dear.  Then to make liquid vanilla, you must smush the beans with the blunt side if a knife and then scrape the innards out.  Then put the innards & the beans into vodka and let that sealed bottle sit in a dark, cool place for AT LEAST three months.  Thus the turn over time for a bottle is long and thus the price increases.  (And yes, there IS alcohol even in fake vanilla extract.  No, it will not get you drunk.  Yes, this has been a voiced complaint.  >_< )

However, if you have a chance to make any yourself, jump at the chance.  You only need the cheapest bottle of vodka which will run you $3 – $5.  And sometimes discount places get vanilla beans in.  TJ-Maxx is one.  So instead of $14 – $30 for 3 beans, you can purchase it for $5 – $7.  You’ll have to wait at least three months for it to be cured, but it makes quite a bit of vanilla, more so than the little bottle from McCormick.

 

whipped cream

 

Homemade whipped cream is super easy to make and is so much better than Cool-Whip… or even store-bought whipped cream in a can.  Trust me, you WANT to make this!

You just need some heavy cream, confectioners sugar (powered sugar) and an electric hand or stand mixer.  Freeze the bowl and beaters of the mixer, because you want them nice and chilled to make this.

Then you just add the cream and the sugar, and mix until stiff peaks form.  Then stop, otherwise you’ll end up with sugar flavoured butter.  Then just use it immediately or put in a container to store in the freezer.  Just bring back to room temperature to use.

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Sugars are easy to make as well.  Everyone has sugar, but you might not have super fine sugar or confectioners sugar on hand.  Just throw some granulated white sugar in a blender or food processor.  Crush a little and you’ll have super fine sugar.  Crush some more and boom you have powdered sugar.  No need to run to the store, if either of these are not something you’ll be using a lot.

Also if a recipe calls for vanilla sugar, that is relatively easy as well.  There is a better and more thorough, difficult and time-consuming process to make real vanilla sugar, but you can just use vanilla extract on granulated or super fine sugar and bake it in the oven for a bit.  It’s not perfect or ideal, but it gets the job done.

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