What's Cooking? with Featured Chef Staff Sgt. Deshonda Curtis

What do you enjoy most about cooking?

“For me cooking is a stress reliever. I like that cooking is an art. I can be creative in the things I make. There are so many dishes you can make and, just by changing one or two seasonings, it can be a whole new dish. Like with casseroles.”

What influenced you to become a cook?

“I’ve been making things in the kitchen since I was seven. I was always interested in what my mom was making or my grandma was making. I’d ask why they did certain things and how. Once I learned the basics of a three-course meal, cooking was it for me. I figured that if I had to choose a career it should be cooking because then it wouldn’t feel so much like work to me because I love doing it. I started with pancakes. She’d let me mix the batter and use her chopper to cut onions. I started off gathering things, and as I got older, that’s when the creativity began.”

What’s your favorite type of dish?

“Casseroles. I love casseroles. Just yesterday my daughter asked me to make a lasagna. I asked her, ‘on a Wednesday? That takes prep time.’ The amount of time they take is special. I feel like the amount of love I put in grows because of how long they take to prep and cook. I like to see the product grow. That’s what’s great about casseroles is that, when it’s finished and tastes as good as it looks, it’s refreshing to me.”

What’s one thing people should have in their kitchens?

“Definitely good pots and pans. That makes a huge difference in making any of your cooking processes more simplified. Like non-stick pans, they’re my life. You can cook with pans that are not non-stick, but it takes a lot more elbow grease. You can multi-task better with non-stick pans. You don’t have to worry about turning away for five minutes and burning something as much. They’re essential.”

What do you like most about the recipe you’re providing?

“It’s quick. You can make big batches, and it’s still as quick. This recipe is something I put together today so you could have exact measurements. I rarely measure when I cook. Also, it’s something you can do as a family. One person can whip the custard and someone else can slice bananas. I only do one layer of bananas because I’m not a big fan of bananas. Growing up, my grandma had a lot of layers of bananas and they go mushy after a while. That over-ripe taste can really take over a dish. Now, I put the bananas on the second to last layers so, if it starts to turn, you can scrape them out and either add more cookies or new fresh bananas.”

No Bake Banana Pudding


1 cup of flour

1/2 cup sugar

4 cups milk

2 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 banana (peeled and sliced)

1 box vanilla wafer cookies


Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 20-30 mins,

Serving Size: 1 cup (yields 8-10 servings)

1. Set stove top burner to medium. Combine flour and sugar in a small pot.

2. Gradually add 1 cup of milk. Use a hand-held wire whip to blend the mixture. As it begins to thicken you gradually add a cup of milk

until you have used all 4 cups. The mixture may be lumpy - this is normal.

3. Once the custard is thickened, add egg yolks and vanilla extract. Combine mixture into a smooth custard with an electric hand mixer while still over heat. Once the custard is smooth, remove from heat.

4. Use a small casserol dish to layer the banana pudding.

Layer the dish with vanilla wafers, followed by custard continuously until you have just enough custard left for a final layer. Layer the banana slices, final layer of custard, and last layer of wafers. (You can add more layers of

banana slices if preferred).

5. Place pudding in refrigerator for 45 minutes to an hour.

6. Serve chilled.