I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I have overheated twice in a week and a half. Either I’m nowhere near as tough as I was a few short decades ago, or it’s actually hotter than it has ever been. I’d like to believe that maybe the temperatures are warmer than they actually reflect. It’s kind of like how I wear the same size pants I did 20 pounds ago. There’s no way these are the same jeans I wore in college.
Whether it’s my age or the slick weathermen are pulling sleight of hand tricks with the chyron, it’s been a brutal July. August doesn’t look much better, so here at the Lagniappe Test Kitchen in MacDonald Laboratories, the oven is rarely getting used. Nothing “low and slow” will be crushing the goal of that sweet, sweet air conditioner.
That doesn’t mean we aren’t cooking. I crank the stovetop up every now and again as this ungodly amount of rain keeps me in. I still cook outside when I can. Meats, veggies, you name it. We don’t eat a lot of bread, but when we do, it is baked elsewhere. We aren’t lacking much, except desserts.
The occasional fresh fruit or instant pudding from the fridge are not impressive to the three growing boys who sometimes need “real dessert.” I take that to mean they need something more than a Bubble Up and a Kit Kat. Store-bought cookies will only get you so far in this house, as these guys will hold you to a higher standard if you let them.
If they want something prepared, let’s give it to them, but let’s make them work for it. No-bake desserts are, hands down, the best way to get your little fellas to work the back of house. It’s far more interesting than peeling potatoes, and far less dangerous than constantly stirring a deadly roux. We are going to sweeten our summer without heating our kitchen with a series of no-bake recipes.
This may not have been your grandmother’s forte, but Mammaw Mac was an expert at it. My favorite was her Dream Pie (aka Toothpick Pie), which I’ve written about more than once. There is a fine example at Cheryl’s Cafe in Spanish Fort with chocolate pudding and whipped topping over a contrasting dry and nutty crust.
A no-bake pie could be custard based with eggs, easier with instant pudding, or as simple as softened cream cheese with sugar and fruit juice. Whichever path you choose, the crust is the first step. We aren’t baking any dough, so we are stuck with crushed cookies bound by melted butter.
Think of your pie crust possibilities: Oreos, shortbread cookies, graham crackers or even ginger snaps if you can crush them enough. I don’t recommend the food processor or blender for any of these. Throw them in a large, zip-top bag with all of the air out and crush them with a rolling pin. A small sauce pot works well, too. After you beat them to a near powder, combine the dust with melted butter and press firmly into a glass pie plate. Remember, you must get butter on anything you wish to stick.
For filling, instant puddings and cheesecakes are simple. You can handle that. For the cream cheese-style pie I love, you’ll need eight ounces of softened cream cheese, a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk for your sugar, and around a half cup of lemon or lime juice. If you want to dress it up, throw some lemon zest in there. An electric mixer is needed to get this smooth enough, otherwise you’ll have either a globby mess or sore arms.
I’m also crazy about the peanut butter-oatmeal-cocoa powder cookies that made heroes of our school cafeteria ladies. It takes a little bit of work on the stove to cook the oats in sugar, butter, milk and cocoa, but it won’t melt the candles on your nearby coffee table. Most people make drop cookies of them, but I prefer they cool in a baking dish and be cut into squares.
I’m a little late to the party on this dessert, but am happy to introduce my family to Nutter Butter Lasagna. This is no-bake solid gold. It meets the criteria of avoiding heat sources, save a pulse or two from the microwave. It’s got chocolate, peanut butter, Cool Whip and charm. The kids will love making this dessert almost as much as eating it!
1 box of Nutter Butters
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 box instant vanilla pudding, prepared
Peanut butter cups, chopped
In an 8-by-8-inch glass dish, layer the bottom with cookies.
Melt the peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, adding 10 seconds at a time as needed to reach desired consistency. Drizzle half over the cookies. Add half the pudding and just as much whipped topping. Sprinkle chopped peanut butter cups, and repeat the layer. Top with crushed Nutter Butters and peanut butter cups and drizzle with more peanut butter.
Refrigerate for 24 hours to soften cookies. Serve with love.
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