Whether you are faced with a need to make a last minute potluck dessert or have impulsively invited friends over for coffee and need something to go with it, here is a solution that takes little more than 5 minutes to prepare and another half hour or so to set up. Of course, that short time of prep means that the ingredients are already in the house. Following the recipe are some comments about how to be ready for desserts like this.
Pudding and Berry Pie
2 c dried chocolate cookie or cake crumbs
2 T softened butter
1/2 c finely chopped or ground almonds or walnuts (optional)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 c plain yogurt (or fat free sour cream)
1 c milk
1 to 2 c individually frozen raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries
Using a fork, blend the crumbs, butter, and nuts and pat and press into an 8 inch pie pan.
Combine the pudding with the yogurt and milk according to package directions. Pour into prepared crust and refrigerate half an hour or more. Ten minutes or so before serving, press the still frozen (or barely thawed) berries into the top of the pie. Serve.
With both the recipe above and any of the following variations, use crumbs from white or yellow cake (or sugar cookies) instead of chocolate crumbs.
Banana split pie: Slice a banana or two and cover the crumbs with a layer of banana slices before pouring in the pudding. Drizzle a little chocolate sauce over the berries if you have some and if you like the extra kick of chocolate.
Peanut butter pie: Omit berries. Substitute peanut butter for the butter in the crumb layer. Use chocolate pudding in place of vanilla pudding and sprinkle the top with chopped peanuts.
Rocky road pie: Omit berries and substitute chocolate pudding for vanilla in the filling. Spread a mixture of miniature marshmallows and chopped walnuts, almonds, or peanuts over the crumbs and then pour the pudding over.
Citrus pie: If you have some lemony cake or cookie crumbs, this one is really refreshing. Use them to make the crust and then make the filling. Reduce the milk to one half cup and add a tablespoon of grated lemon or orange rind. Spread over the crumbs and then cover with a layer of thinly sliced orange wedges. A few green grapes, cut in half and pressed into the filling cut side down can be interspersed for an even more attractive topping.
Any of these variations can make last minute desserts whatever the season. Just be sure to keep a few packages of instant pudding mix in the cupboard and some berries (whole, not the ones frozen in syrup) in the freezer.
Oh, and don't forget the crumbs.
One of the great ways to save money is to dry stale brownies, cake, even cookies, crumble and dry them, and then store them in airtight bags in the refrigerator (or on the shelf for up to several weeks). I know, I hear you saying that there is no such thing as a brownie or other dessert getting to the stale stage in your house, and you may be right. However, have you ever had a big pan with a pile of crumbs and one or two misshapen parts of the last few pieces of cake left? And so you decided to just eat those leftovers (no calories in leftovers like these, right?) or, regretfully, tossed them in the trash. The last cookie and the crumbs in the cookie jar often share the same kind of fate.
Instead of seeing these tasty bits go to waste (waist), they can be dried and used to substitute for any graham cracker crust recipe. Crumbling the last bits and pieces into even sizes, they can be spread on a baking sheet and left on the counter to dry for a day or two--or put them in a 200 degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes (depending on how moist the cake or cookies had been). Be sure they are thoroughly dry before packaging. It only takes a cup and a half or so of crumbs to make a nice small (8 inch square or round pie pan) crust. If you don't have quite enough from one batch, put the crumbs in the freezer (CLEARLY LABELED!) and add similar ones later. Don't worry if there are nuts in the crumbs, though you'll want to salvage the raisins from those leftover oatmeal cookies. Different chocolate crumbs can be combined, and another container of crumbs can include white or lemon cake crumbs along with plain sugar cookies. Spiced crumbs (oatmeal cookies, carrot cake, etc.) would be a third category.
...Of course, if you don't yet have any crumbs, you can always fall back on the old graham cracker standby, but once you've had a chocolate crumb crust, you may find yourself making an extra cake layer just to dry it for this kind of dessert!