I confess. I have a sweet tooth. I love dessert. In a civilized world, we’d start with dessert and work backwards, finishing our meals with a salad, if we had any room left. Cake with lots of frosting, cookies, brown-betty pies, and brownies with nuts, I love it all. (I gained 65 pounds from a 9-month pregnancy diet consisting primarily of frosted brownies. My 27-year-old son says it’s time for me to quit blaming him for my dessert-induced weight fluctuations. Apparently, I can no longer refer to it as “post baby weight.”)
Lately, I’ve been exploring baking options. Hubs does all the cooking, but alas, he doesn’t bake. Friends, family, and anyone who’s ever read my blog more than twice, knows that I don’t cook. At all. Notwithstanding Hubs’ evidence to the contrary, I’m a reasonably intelligent women, but this daily cooking thing people constantly speak of, quite frankly, eludes me entirely.
Previous attempts to master the Zen of the culinary arts have been met with greasy explosions requiring day-long cleanup, blaring smoke alarms sending our Chihuhuas scrambling for cover, kitchen fires resulting in fire extinguishers now being stored under every counter, and more than one reminder from grade school science class to avoid retrieving stuck bread from a toaster with a fork (turns out that one’s true…who knew?).
My sister is an award-winning, valedictorian-of-her-cooking-school chef. She makes desserts that she sets on fire on purpose, and her magazine-worthy, edible artwork is regularly photographed for all the world to applaud and envy. I long ago concluded that Sissy sucked up the entire cooking gene pool, leaving me with a lifelong kitchen phobia not infrequently resulting in eating Pop Tarts directly from the bag to avoid having to go “in there” to use the toaster.
There is one thing, however, that I do know how to make, and it’s fabulous. With respect to all your mamas who heretofore won the blue ribbon at your local county fair for the last six straight years, I can whip out the world’s greatest banana cream pie in slightly over an hour. It’s the only thing I make, it’s yummy, and it’s loaded with calories. But if you’ve ever had a midnight yen for this dessert, it will rock your banana cream pie world.
One evening, Hubs came home and announced that he’d invited some friends over for dinner and that they requested my banana cream pie. Since Hubs and I have been trying to lose a little weight, I was reluctant to blow a week’s worth of caloric deprivation in one evening. Fortunately, I’d recently read an article about how to swap high-calorie baking ingredients with their less ass-expanding counterparts. I decided it would be a good time to try Diet Banana Cream Pie.
Layer One: 1 C flour, 1 C chopped walnuts, 1 C melted butter. Stir together in rectangular, lasagna-size pan and bake for 15 minutes at 350. Let cool. Diet version: Use flour, skip the nuts, and use applesauce (unsweetened) instead of butter. Hmmm. Consistency is not quite the same. But let’s press on.
Layer two: One 8-0z. package of cream cheese, softened, 1 C powdered sugar, 1 C Cool Whip. Put together in bowl and whip with electric blender (new cooks: It’s not the Margarita one. I tried that. Epic fail. It’s the white one with the beaters that your mom let you lick the frosting from). Spread over cooled crust. Diet version: Fat-free cream cheese, powdered sugar, fat-free Cool Whip. Not sure at this point. It’s kind of runny.
Layer three: Slice bananas into small rounds and place side-by-side to cover entire cream cheese layer. Diet version: Ditto. It’s fruit. Go crazy.
Layer four: One large box of Vanilla Instant Pudding, 3 C 2% milk. Put in bowl and beat with the same blender you used above (rinse the beaters first), until slightly thick or “pudding’y.” Spread over bananas. Put pie in fridge to set (about an hour). Diet version: Sugar-free instant pudding, fat-free milk.
Layer five: “Frost” with remaining Cool Whip. Diet version: Remaining fat-free Cool Whip.
It was beautiful. It looked exactly the same as the regular pie, but with a considerably reduced contribution to my future cellulite stores. (Sara Lee, are you taking notes?)
Then Hubs, a lifelong skeptic about diet versions of any food that he likes the way they’re “supposed to be,” suggested we actually try it before the guests arrived, with maybe just a nibble in the corners, to make sure it was okay. Trying not to be insulted over his doubts about my new masterpiece, I agreed to a tiny sample.
Oh. My. God.
The top layers were runny, gooey, and tasted a bit like wet Sheetrock. The crust… Well, we’ll never know because it could have doubled as a weapon during an in-home invasion. One good whack with that pie pan, and burglar guy was going down. It was rock. solid. WTH??
By now, Hubs had spit out his wine and was laughing so hard, he could barely choke out his running commentary on blondes, cooking, and why diets are stupid. Red-faced and totally defeated, I grabbed an ice pick and, reminiscent of Norman Bates in the shower scene from Psycho, began stabbing the crust, yelling “Eeee, eee, eee!” Nothing. Hubs was struggling valiantly to control his decidedly unsportsmanlike glee at my current culinary humiliation. He grabbed Great-Grandma Rose’s (may she rest in peace) antique meat mallet and began playing an enthusiastic game of whack-a-mole, trying to break the crust, but it had unfortunately become one with the pan. Well, crap.
Hubs finally took pity on me and offered to go back to the store for the real ingredients and a new pie pan. I stayed home to bury the evidence of my 1,793rd cooking disaster somewhere Buford, the neighbor’s rescue mutt who possesses an unfortunate propensity for digging up our yard, would never find it and chip a tooth. Then I’m making my famous, original Banana Cream Pie. All 50 gazillion calories per slice. But worth it?