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Banana Cream Pie
Ellie Krieger's Banana Cream Pie recipe. / Renee Comet / USA WEEKEND

Banana cream pie might not seem like a typical holiday dessert, but it has been a staple on my in-laws’ holiday table for generations. It was my father-in-law’s favorite as a boy, so his mother would make it each year, and it took hold as the preferred dessert of his children and grandchildren. That’s the beauty of family traditions: They are as special and individual as the family itself.

This pie honors that delightful custom with a fresh twist. Although rich, fragrant and decadent, it is significantly lightened up from the usual recipe. The filling is a creamy vanilla pudding made with low-fat milk and enriched with egg yolks, and it is layered over fresh sliced bananas in a graham cracker crumb crust (made with a touch of butter). A dollop of real whipped cream on top is all that’s needed to ensure this dessert reigns for generations to come.

Luscious Banana Cream Pie

• Cooking spray
• 14 graham cracker squares (7 full sheets)
• 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
• 1 Tb. water
• 1½ tsps. unflavored gelatin
• 3 Tbs. boiling water
• 1/3 cup plus ½ tsp. sugar
• 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
• 1½ cups low-fat milk
• 2 large egg yolks
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 cups ¼-inch-thick banana slices (3 medium bananas)
• ¼ cup well-chilled heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray.

To make the crust, process the graham crackers until finely ground. Add the butter and water and process until the crumbs clump together. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pie plate and about 1 inch up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes, then let cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the gelatin in a small bowl; add the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1/3 cup of sugar and the flour. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the milk and egg yolks together.

Add the egg-and-milk mixture to the saucepan and whisk so the flour and sugar dissolve. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened. Stir in the vanilla and gelatin slurry. Set aside to cool slightly.

Arrange the sliced bananas on the crust and pour the pudding on top. Refrigerate until the pudding has set, about 3 hours.

Whip the cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. When it is about halfway to soft peaks, add the remaining ½ tsp. sugar, then continue whipping until it barely holds a soft peak. Put the whipped cream in a plastic bag; snip the corner off the bag and pipe the whipped cream in a decorative pattern around the pie. The pie will keep in the refrigerator up to 2 days.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving (1 slice): 218 calories, 33g carbohydrates, 4g protein, 8g fat (4g saturated), 1.5g fiber, 72mg cholesterol, 102mg sodium

Contributing editor and registered dietitian Ellie Krieger is best known as the host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite. Her most recent cookbook is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy.

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Ellie Krieger is host of the The Food Network’s hit show “Healthy Appetite,” which airs on The Cooking Channel. The author of three cookbooks, her latest is Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favorites Made Healthy. A registered dietitian, Ellie has helped out with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and has teamed up with New York City SchoolFood initiative, where she created healthy, delicious menu items for students citywide.