As I scramble through my last month living in San Diego, I was lucky enough to take part in one last Healthy Dining Office Potluck. When you work with a team of Culinary Dietitians and other foodie health professionals, potluck celebrations are serious business. Looking back on the 2.5 years that I’ve worked with this team, I’m pleasantly surprised that I had a chance to document several of my contributions online here: there have been polenta-crusted quiches, gluten-free peach cobbler scones, worksgiving goat cheese mashed potatoes, and platters of avocado toast slathered with chimichurri sauce. But to date, my crowning achievement was at a banana-themed bash we held last October, so this week I had go out with a bang and recreate my biggest hit.
I took inspiration from a roasted banana pudding recipe I remember seeing in an old issue of Cooking Light, but I ended up making mine quite a bit differently. Several of my coworkers don’t do dairy, and I like to bring an equal-opportunity dessert to the table. So while I don’t follow a vegan diet myself, I worked around the genius oven-caramelized bananas and overhauled the rest of the recipe into a completely plant-based creation.
The pudding uses an almond milk base, thickened with cornstarch, and enhanced with the sticky-sweet roasted bananas (along with a splash of rum, if you dare). It’s layered with classic vanilla wafers, extra roasted banana slices, and probably the most important secret of the recipe: a little extra sprinkle of salt between the layers, a key counter-balance to the sweetness. The final touch is the best creamy/dreamy tropical topping: whipped coconut cream.
Back to Nature makes vanilla wafers without dairy or egg, but if you’re not concerned about keeping things Strictly Vegan, I recommend Trader Joe’s Ultimate Vanilla Wafers – they are the BEST.
Just remember: vegan doesn’t mean healthy (and for that matter, healthy doesn’t mean anything…). This dessert does offer some real-food nutrition, but it’s also a sweet indulgence, a reminder to take joy in eating, the simplest earthly pleasure.
Make it with love, savor it, and share it with your favorite people. Office mates, I’m glad I had one more chance to feed you pudding before I hit the road for Seattle. Until next time, for you and all my other favorite people that I don’t live close enough to cook for, I’ll leave you with the recipe.