Banana pudding poke cake

Happy banana pudding day!

Today is my mother’s birthday, and banana pudding was her favorite; my sister and I always eat banana pudding today in her honor. :) Because we like it so much, I thought y’all might enjoy our new favorite incarnation of this: banana pudding poke cake. I found the recipe at The Country Cook, and it’s pretty dang great. I am a weirdo and I don’t like actual bananas in my banana pudding (please tell me I’m not alone in this; the texture gets weird and the bananas turn brown; ick), so for me this is just about perfect.

Banana pudding poke cake

Ingredients

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • ingredients listed on cake mix box (eggs, oil, water)
  • 2 packages (3.4 oz each) instant banana pudding
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 tub (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • mini Nilla wafers

Instructions

  1. Following box directions, bake the yellow cake in a 9×13″ pan
  2. Let it cool for about two minutes, then use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke rows and rows of holes in the cake, all the way to the bottom
  3. Whisk together instant pudding and milk until lumps are gone; let it sit for 2 minutes, then pour over cake, using a spreader or spatula to make sure the pudding flows into all the holes
  4. Pop it in the fridge and chill till cake is completely cooled and pudding is set up
  5. Spread chilled cake with a whipped topping, then top with mini Nilla wafers and you’re done!

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shell casserole

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked forever, and finally got to play around with it. And I’m so glad I did! Mine is, um, not photogenic. But it sure is tasty! It’s like Tex-Mex comfort food, which is exactly what sounds great to me this time of year. Well, really, any time of year, if we’re being honest here. It’s a nice departure from my standby of cultural divide casserole (have you weighed in?) which gets made a lot in winter weeknights.

Tex-Mex Stuffed Shell casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 12-oz box large pasta shells
  • 1 large (29 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 can Ro-Tel
  • 4 Tbsp. (or one packet) taco seasoning
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • Salt
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. Boil the pasta shells in well-salted water for about four minutes less than the time indicated on the box for al dente (mushy noodles = bad)
  3. Make the sauce by combining tomato sauce, Ro-Tel, taco seasoning, and black beans; heat to a low simmer in a saucepan
  4. Make the ground beef mixture by browning the beef, onion, and garlic together, then stirring in cumin, chili powder, and salt; turn off the heat and stir in the cream cheese
  5. Assemble the casserole by putting in a bottom layer of shells into a large baking dish, each shell stuffed with about a Tbsp. of the ground beef mixture (a small cookie scoop works great for this), follow with about half the tomato sauce mixture, then a layer of cheese. Repeat the layers, then cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so until cheese is bubbly

I would love to hear what your cold-weather favorites are! What else should I try?

Pan-roasted chicken thighs

I kind of never know what to do with chicken thighs. Chicken breasts? No problem. Ditto whole chickens. But I wasn’t sure what to do with chicken thighs till I saw this recipe, which looked simple and delicious. The end result is fantastic! Very tasty, with crispy skin that makes it seem like you’re eating fried chicken.

Pan-roasted chicken thighs

Ingredients

  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 475F. This takes my oven about two and a half years to accomplish, so start early
  2. Put the chicken pieces on a paper towel-lined plate, and season well with salt and pepper
  3. Heat oil over fairly high heat in a cast iron or other heavy skillet big enough to hold your chicken without it being too crowded
  4. Put chicken in skillet, skin side down, and cook two minutes; reduce heat to medium-high and set a timer for 12 minutes; you’re looking for crispy, golden brown skin on the chicken, so move it around as needed to make it evenly browned
  5. Transfer your skillet to the oven and cook for 13 minutes; flip the chicken skin side up and continue cooking till it’s cooked through, about 5-8 more minutes
  6. Transfer to a plate and let it rest five minutes before serving

 

I will warn you that this was crazy levels of smoky in my oven; you might want to turn the fan on before you get this going. But it was SO GOOD and SO WORTH IT. Let me know if you try it!