Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding with Vanilla Cookies

This is one of my very favorite desserts and sometimes I just need the "real thing" to satisfy my craving for it. The taste of this makeover recipe is exactly the same as the original and will satisfy the pickiest of banana pudding connoisseurs, but this recipe is only half the calories and one-third the carbs. Right now, Trader Joe's is offering an outstanding vanilla wafer cookie with flecks of vanilla bean that makes this recipe over the top! Of course, you can use the traditional Nilla brand by Nabisco and recreate a fond memory from your childhood, too.

Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding with Vanilla Cookies
(Makes 4 servings)

Pudding ingredients:
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
1¼ cup almond milk (Original flavor)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon banana flavoring (optional)
2 teaspoons Splenda granular (or 2 packets)
1 package of fat-free, sugar free instant banana cream pudding mix
1 small banana, quartered lengthwise and sliced into cubes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 vanilla wafer cookies (choose your favorite brand)

Whipped Topping ingredients:
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons almond or soy milk (or fat-free ½ and ½)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Splenda granular

1. Measure the ¼ cup mascarpone cheese, almond milk, extracts, and 2 teaspoons of Splenda into a medium mixing bowl. Using a hand-held or standing mixer, beat on medium to high speed until well blended and increased in volume. Add sugar-free pudding mix and beat for 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate pudding mixture for a least 10 minutes before proceeding.

2. Slice banana into a small bowl, add lemon juice and toss with a spoon until fruit is coated. Gently fold bananas to the pudding mixture. Divide pudding equally into four dessert dishes. Stick two vanilla cookies into each dish (you may break cookies in half first, if desired). Push the cookies part way into the pudding and refrigerate for 45 minutes before serving. (Pudding can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. Because of the fresh bananas, it is best served on the same day as it is prepared, but will keep for 1-2 days.)

3. Whipped Topping (optional): Place all of the topping ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and beat on high with a hand-held or standing mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Nutritional Information per serving of pudding with 2 cookies (no whipped topping): 146 calories, 17.4 g carbohydrate, 7.5 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 0.6 g fiber, 1.5 g protein.

Nutritional Information per serving of whipped topping (about 2 tablespoons or ¼ of recipe): 49 calories, 0.6 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g total fat, 2.6 g saturated fat, 0 g fiber, 0.7 g protein.

Original recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2010

How does this recipe compare to homemade banana pudding with vanilla cookies? The difference is astounding because the homemade version that everyone dreams about is made with whole milk and/or cream, eggs, and sugar (and that's before adding the bananas and cookies!). For comparison, the nutritional information per ½-cup serving of the homemade recipe is 350 calories, 52.5 g carbohydrate, 14 g total fat, 9.3 g saturated fat, 0 g fiber, 2.3 g protein.

How does whipped topping made with mascarpone cheese and almond milk or fat-free ½ & ½ compare to real whipped cream made with heavy whipping cream? First, the taste difference is barely noticeable. Both are creamy, delicious and have a similar mouth-feel. The mascarpone whipped topping is slightly less in total fat per serving, but the real difference is in the amount of saturated fat per serving, carbs and number of calories. Real whipped cream is 3.5 grams of saturated fat per serving, 3 carbs (if made with sugar) and about 60 calories. The mascarpone whipped topping is 2.6 grams of saturated fat, 0.6 carbs (if made with a sugar substitute) and 49 calories per serving. When you're watching your weight, every little reduction helps.

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