Cooks Exchange

Stay cool with no-bake dessert, no-cook soup

Stay cool in the kitchen: Don’t turn on the oven.

In my house, using the oven heats the dining area and den. That’s why oven cooking is avoided at all costs at my home. I don’t like being hot. Yes, I keep my thermostat at what I think is a reasonable 76, but the oven in my small kitchen overpowers the cool air.

My church group meets weekly for potluck at different houses. Last week the main dish was pulled pork. Some were bringing coleslaw, drinks, you know, the usual must-haves. I offered dessert because I knew that was something I did not have to do in the oven.

Some may think less of me, but instant pudding, cream cheese, whipped topping and even flavored gelatins are my favorites for easy desserts. See, I have often said that cooking is not brain surgery. My dessert offering for the potluck proves it — banana lasagna.

Sounds weird, huh? The taste makes up for the strange-sounding name and that I did not have to turn on nary a burner or oven.

A few in the group questioned the dessert, thinking I had probably lost every marble.

For family reunions, potlucks or even a backyard gathering, this dessert works. It is a variation of banana pudding. A cream cheese-sugar mixture is the base to which vanilla pudding, milk and vanilla are added and beaten until fluffy in a mixer.

The most difficult part of the dessert is crushing the vanilla wafers for a crust. Again, I got to take out frustrations by pounding the wafers to crumbs. Cooking does release stress.

Banana lasagna must chill in the fridge at least two hours or overnight. Mine sat overnight, awaiting last-minute whipped topping and more bananas and vanilla wafers. The filling even is given a thumbs’ up by a picky 7-year-old.

The dessert can be made low-sugar and lower in fat by using sugar-free pudding, low-fat milk and cream cheese and no-sugar whipped topping. Simply substitute the low-sugar and low-fat varieties.

Keep it cool with soup

A pot of soup sounds heavy for 95-degree temperatures, but even soup can be cool and refreshing. A cold gazpacho makes a great lunch and makes use of garden vegetables.

A cold vichyssoise can bring down the heat, too. Potatoes can be cooked in the microwave for cooler cooking. Remember, potatoes contain more potassium than bananas. I’ll share this recipe and some other ideas for cold soups in the July 28 column.

Don’t forget requests

Readers want the seasoning for French Connection’s bacon-wrapped grilled chicken breasts and the “rimi” sauce at the now-closed Toucan’s restaurant.

School starts soon

Does anyone still pack their kids’ or grandkids’ lunches? If so, send me some of your ideas to share with fellow parents, grandparents or guardians.

BANANA LASAGNA

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups finely chopped vanilla wafers

4 tablespoons melted butter

Pinch of kosher salt

For the cheesecake:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 (3.4-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 3/4 cup whole milk

5 large ripe bananas, sliced

48 vanilla wafers, plus more, crushed for garnish

Make crust: In a medium bowl, stir together vanilla wafers, butter and salt. Press into the bottom of a small rectangular baking dish. Set aside.

Make cheesecake filling. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in heavy cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pudding mix and milk. Let pudding stand for 5 minutes until thickened. Fold pudding into cheesecake mixture.

Pour half the filling onto graham cracker crust. Add a layer of sliced bananas and vanilla wafers, then pour in the remaining half of filling. Add another layer of sliced bananas and vanilla wafers. Refrigerate until cool and set, at least 2 hours and up to overnight covered.

Top lasagna with Cool Whip, sprinkle with vanilla wafers and top with remaining banana slices. Slice and serve. Serves 8.

— From www.delish.com

GAZPACHO

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes peeled (heat in boiling water about 1 minute and peel the skin away), coarsely chop

1 cup tomato juice

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

2 teaspoons salt

In a food processor, finely chop (but don’t puree) cucumber and bell peppers. Add to large mixing bowl.

Add to food processor the onion and parsley. Chop but do not puree. Add to the cucumber and bell peppers.

Add to food processor the tomatoes, pulse for about 15 to 30 seconds. They will be liquidy. Add to the vegetable mixture in bowl. Add tomato juice, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, jalapeno and salt.

Stir and mix well. Chill at least 2 hours. Serve cold in cold vessels.

— From www.howtofeedaloon.com

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, 205 DeBuys Road, Gulfport, MS 39507.
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