I have celebrated Thanksgiving with my family for as long as I can remember. And every year it has looked very different. I come from a long line of broken homes and very little tradition. It’s usually all we can do to get together all in the same place at the same time. Trying to add the pressure of a year-to-year tradition seems darn near impossible.
My name is Jamie and I wish I could tell you that my kids look forward to Thanksgiving every year because of the delicious foods and the family reuniting around grandma’s table. But that’s just not the reality for my family.
Holidays have always been hard because we usually end up strategizing over how to hit every house (mom and step-dad, dad and step-mom, grandma’s, the in-laws, etc.). More times than not, it just seems exhausting and stressful.
Well last Thanksgiving I realized that neither I nor my husband have any living grandparents. Neither of our moms really cook any more. (And neither do I.) My dad has passed away. My kids are sometimes with their dad and his family in an entirely different state. We just decided to leave town.
In fact, we plan on leaving town again this year. I believe we may have started my first ever Thanksgiving tradition. We have decided instead of adding one more place for our grown kids to have to visit, we would just plan a special meal the following week and do some really cool “Thanks”giving activities and games.
So instead of trying to hit everyone’s house and not hurt anyone’s feelings, we just go on vacation. We spend some time alone and think about all the things we are grateful for. I truly spend time with God telling Him all the many things I appreciate about Him.
We still do the turkey and the mashed potatoes and the cranberry sauce. We just do it on a different day.
So, as you probably know this series is called Around The Table. I have a pretty cool experience I want to share with you on Friday, but today is about sharing a recipe.
As I sat down (several times) to come up with the perfect recipe I wanted to share, it forced me to think about past Thanksgivings. I thought about the last one I had with my grandmother before she passed. I thought about the last one I had with my sister, and my dad, and as a single mom. I thought about the last one I had before my kids all went their separate ways. Every single one was different.
I remember very few events at the same table. I have moved around more that most people I know. I don’t know if it was progressing towards something or running from something. But I know that I’m ready to start a new thing.
I have been married to my husband, Eric, for almost 5 years now. Almost immediately after the wedding I began to look for the perfect table. It had to be perfectly square and it had to seat 8 people. It needed to be board game friendly with a lazy susan in the middle. And even though my kids are grown, I wanted to start creating healthy memories around our kitchen table. It took over two years to find just the right one.
As soon as the table was brought in every one just sort of chose their seats. We all staked our claim and to this day when we’re all together we still sit in the same seats. It makes my heart so happy.
Once a month we have family fun night and all the kids (including any friends they want to invite) gather around the table and I cook for them. It’s usually something simple like nachos, tacos, or spaghetti. But once in a while I make a special dessert.
So the recipe I want to share is a dessert. It’s one that I would only cook at Thanksgiving (and by Thanksgiving, I mean the week after on a day of our choosing) or Christmas. That dessert is Banana Pudding. It’s so easy by so delicious. The hardest part is the Meringue Topping.
I hope you try it at least once. And let me know what you think.
I can’t wait to share more with you on Friday about how I’ve lost so much time looking for a place at the table.
Grandma’s Banana Pudding
Ingredients for the Pudding: (I don’t really measure, so measurements are approximate)
8-10 ripe bananas (depending on the size of the bananas)
1-2 boxes of vanilla wafers (depending on the size of the box)
2 large boxes (5.1 oz) of Instant Vanilla Pudding (Yes, I said instant. Trust me.)
7 cups of Whole Milk
Ingredients for the Meringue Topping:
7 large egg whites (room temperature)
1 ½ cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla flavoring
Use a 9”X13” glass casserole dish. Make sure it is oven safe. Create a layer of vanilla wafers (or as even as possible). Create a layer of sliced bananas, cutting them about ¼” per slice. You don’t have to be picky. You can’t go wrong with this. Just have fun. Mix your pudding per the direction on the box adding an extra ½ cup of milk to each box. Pour it over your cookie and banana layer until your bananas are covered by not floating. Repeat the steps to create a second layer of cookies and bananas. Depending on the depth of your dish and thickness of your bananas you may repeat the process to create a third layer, but make sure you save at least a ½” for the meringue topping.
Put the pudding mixture aside as you prepare the topping. Place the egg whites in a clean, grease free bowl. Begin to mix the eggs with your mixer on high. Continue to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks begin to form. This could take anywhere from 7 to 10 minutes. Put in your vanilla flavoring as you continue to mix the meringue. Mix for another minute. Begin to add the sugar in ¼ cup increments. Mix the meringue for about 30 seconds between each ¼ cup of sugar. Once all the sugar has been added continue to mix the meringue for another two minutes. Begin to spoon the meringue onto your pudding. Make sure there is an even ½” to 1” layer that completely covers the pudding. Use the back side of your spoon to tap on the meringue to create peaks.
Turn your oven onto the low broil setting. Place the dish into the oven but do NOT close the door and do NOT take your eyes off of it. The minute the peaks on the meringue begin to brown pull the dish out of the oven. You can serve it warm or wait until it cools. It’s delicious either way. Happy eating!