1. Drain the fruit cocktail and spread the fruit on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the fruit in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 24 hours to drain completely.
2. In a large bowl, stir a few drops of the food coloring into the whipped cream to tint it pink. Gently fold in the drained fruit with the coconut and marshmallows. Cover and refrigerate until needed. This makes a generous 4 quarts ambrosia, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the ambrosia will keep up to 3 days.
Alternate layers of the ambrosia and banana pudding in a large bowl or trifle dish, garnishing the layers as inspired with vanilla wafers, sliced bananas and maraschino cherries. Decorate the top as desired. This can be made up to a few hours in advance (to keep the banana slices from browning, brush with a little lemon water).
Each of 24 servings, without garnishes
Protein: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 49 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Fat: 10 grams
Saturated fat: 8 grams
Cholesterol: 8 mg
Sugar: 43 grams
Sodium: 300 mg
Adapted from Charles Phoenix. Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times
"It's sort of a funny thing for me to say as a restaurant chef, but my advice to my sons and to everyone is to cook at home at least most of the time," says chef Cal Peternell, author of Twelve Recipes.