Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Mango and Roasted Mung Beans


photo 2

Well hello again. I’ve been away, literally and figuratively. I’ve taken a break from the blogging world (but not from cooking) and I was off in Thailand recently. I could go on and on about the food I ate there. I won’t today. Later though. Today is about pudding.

In 3rd grade I let Emily D. pull out my tooth in the girls’ bathroom in exchange for tapioca pudding. I can picture us standing there, what we were wearing, and how she did it. I think I got the better half of that deal. Tapioca, I would do most anything for you… still.

Here’s a tapioca pudding with a Southeast Asian flair. I brought a package of these delicious dried mung beans home with me from Thailand, but I have since seen that you can find them in most Asian supermarkets. The Thai use this salty treat atop puddings and fruits to add a savory crunch to desserts.

Coconut Tapioca Pudding
1 3/4 cup coconut milk (1 can)
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup water
3 Tablespoons small pearl tapioca*
1 egg, beaten
3 Tablespoons palm or coconut sugar
pinch of salt
1 large mango
2 Tablespoons dry roasted mung beans

I used minute (not instant) tapioca and followed the instructions. Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan and let sit for 5 minutes.

Over medium heat, stir almost constantly until pudding comes to a rapid boil (when stirring it is still boiling). Make sure the palm sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat and let sit, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir tapioca 2-3 times.

Tapioca pudding is ready to eat (warm or cold). Slice mango how you like and add 1 teaspoon of mung beans to each bowl. Serve.

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Tom’s Banana Cream Pie


My favorite flannel-wearing, softball-playing, Allandale-living, antique-shopping friend requested a banana cream pie for his birthday.

I couldn’t find a lactose free (yet not vegan or tofu-full) recipe for the pudding so I decided to make one up. Using coconut cream and amazingly vibrant yellow egg yolks from a friend’s farm, the experiment worked. I’d forgotten how much I love pudding. And now I’ve made this 3 times in 1 week already and can’t seem to stop eating it.

I have yet to find a whipped cream recipe sans dairy, so this pie had a layer of lightly sweetened whipped cream on top for the dairy-lovers out there, several layers of bananas, and a nice ginger graham cracker crust. I think it went over quite well.

The Pudding (makes enough for 2 pies)
2 eggs + 8 egg yolks
1 can coconut cream (2 1/2 cups)
3 cups almond milk
1 1/3 cups sugar
pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons tapioca starch
5 Tablespoons arrowroot starch
2 Tablespoons cornstarch (if making pie)

Beat the eggs and yolks together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Over low-medium heat, warm the cream, milk, sugar and salt. Mix slowly and constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm through. Slowly whisk a tablespoon at a time of the tapioca and arrowroot. If making pie, add the cornstarch too. If simply making a pudding, omit. Simmer over medium heat and continue to stir until the mixture coats the spoon well, 7-9 minutes. Do not bring to a boil. Make sure you stir into the corners of the pot, the starches will start to clump if you don’t keep mixing.

Slowly whisk 1 tablespoon at a time of the cream mixture into the eggs. After a few tablespoons, slowly add the remaining cream into the eggs.

Wipe the saute pan clean. Pour the custard mixture through a fine-mesh sieve back into the pot. Over low-medium heat stir slowly and constantly again until the custard begins to thicken. Continue to stir until thick, about 6-8 minutes (if it takes a little longer, just keep stirring!). Once it starts to thicken, the custard will set fast, within 3 minutes. Stir constantly.

Transfer pudding to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill completely.

Ginger Graham Cracker Crust (makes 2 pie crusts)
10 ounces gluten free graham crackers
6 ounces pecans (1 1/2 cups)
6 ounces butter, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 Tablespoons tapioca powder

Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, blend graham crackers and pecans until fine. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until incorporated.

Press the crust into pie pans with your fingers, pushing the crust up the sides. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until slightly browned.

Cool completely before pouring in pudding.

Slice 2 bananas lengthwise. Line the crust with bananas. Do not overlap, but allow the bananas to get close. Pour half of the pudding mixture onto the bananas. Layer another lay of 2 bananas atop the pudding. If using whipped cream, pile on top of additional layer of bananas. If not, arrange bananas in a presentable design. Repeat for the second pie.

Chill until ready to serve.

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Chocolate and Chocolate Ganache Tart

I recently took a vegan and gluten-free baking class at Thai Fresh with Kaylee. What a wonderful way to spend a cold evening: in the Thai Fresh kitchen with a handful of folks standing around an island heated by the surrounding ovens. One of the great take-aways was an amazingly rich ganache. Ganache is usually heavy on the cream and I have never really tried a comparable substitute. Until now. This is an incredibly simple recipe (raw, vegan, gluten free) and I just adjusted the measurements and then added a couple of embellishments as desired.

I had an impromptu Christmas gathering at my house and decided on a “pie” party. I wanted something extra chocolatey since it would be the only chocolate item on the table. I made this tasty cocoa crust up on the spot, added Kaylee’s ganache, and then topped it off with toasted hazelnuts. Delicious, vegan, gluten free. And of course, simple.

Cocoa Crust
1 1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup cashews
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter (earthspread)
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350. In a food processor, blend the nuts until fine. Add the remaining ingredients and blend just until completely mixed. Press crust into a 9-in pie dish. The dough will be very sticky, you can wet your hands if necessary.

Bake for 14-15 minutes. The crust will puff up slightly and fall down the sides slightly. While still hot, use the back of a spoon to press the crust gently back up the sides. Chill until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache with Hazelnuts
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso + 2 teaspoons hot water
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Combine all ingredients (minus the nuts) in a blender or use hand-held immersion blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour into the pie crust. Immediately sprinkle the hazelnuts on top.

Chill completely until ready to serve.

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Holiday Chocolate Bark

chocolate bark
Last minute holiday shopping? Want something pretty that doesn’t break the bank? Hostess gift? Thank you gift? White Elephant? The answer is almost always chocolate. I love making bark during the holidays. There are so many toppings to choose from that you really can’t go wrong. I like to have a ton of great chocolate (usually I go with 70%) and small bowls full of various toppings. Then I pick and choose as I go.

My friend Jen works for an organic chocolate maker, Theo and brings tasty chocolate with her pretty much everywhere she goes. I’ve come to expect (and hope) that when I go to a party with Jen there will be a variety of chocolates I’ve never tried before. This December I asked her if I could sample some of the straight 70% dark chocolate for my baking needs. She happily obliged and I’ve now made enough bark for two holiday parties, one thank you gift, and one white elephant gift.

It makes such a difference to have good quality chocolate when making bark since the main flavor is the chocolate itself. This year I went a little wild. I made these in three batches. That way there’s plenty of room in my fridge while the bark is hardening and I don’t have to work too fast because the chocolate doesn’t cool in the pot while I’m working on different toppings.

Chocolate Bark 101
1-2 pounds good quality 70% chocolate
1 pound white chocolate
parchment paper
large cutting board

Prepare your mis en place: toast all nuts being used (and chop if chopping) and place in small bowls. Chop all dried fruit, smash any candies, have salt and spices ready. Place a large cutting board on a dry space and cover with parchment paper.

Melt approximately 1/2 pound of chocolate at a time. Stir frequently over low heat until completely melted. Pour melted chocolate onto parchment paper and smooth with a plastic spatula. I like my bark pretty thin (just under 1/8 inch) but you can make it up to just under half an inch if you like it thicker.

Sprinkle toppings of your choice onto chocolate. If using larger pieces of anything, press into chocolate gently so nothing falls off later. Refrigerate for a minimum of 45 minutes. If you break apart the chocolate by hand before it’s completely firm, the bark will have soft edges and won’t look as pretty.

Break apart into a variety of shapes and sizes. If you like more uniform pieces, cut into squares after about 15 minutes in the fridge (it’ll be set but still malleable). Do this with a knife.

This year’s combinations:
toasted hazelnut and cinnamon
white chocolate and peppermint candy
toasted almonds and maldon salt
toasted salted peanuts, cayenne, cinnamon
cocoa nibs and sea salt
toasted almond, currants, pistachios
toasted pistachios and candied orange
dried cherries, toasted almonds, sea salt
toasted hazelnut and espresso
80% chocolate and candied ginger
carmelized cocoa nibs (I got these at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown)

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Winter Squash, Basil, Cotija, Toasted Pepitas

I have now made this so many times this season you’d think I’d get sick of it. But no. I have brought this to 2 potlucks, made it for myself, served it at a brunch, and put it together for my lunches at work. This has minimal ingredients and each is fresh and in season. Prep time is really just in cubing the squash, so make sure you do a large batch that will last awhile. Then throw the ingredients together for a very impressive veggie dish. Perfect for the holidays and the cold.

This recipe is three steps: roasting the squash, toasting the pepitas, and making the dressing. When you’re ready to serve, toss it all together. I served this at room temperature as is or over a bed of arugula. Both were hits.

Winter Squash, Basil, Cotija, and Toasted Pepitas
2 whole butternut squash*, peeled, seeded, and cubed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400. Squash should be cubed into bite-sized pieces. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the squash, oil, and salt together on the paper. Toss with your hands to coat the squash. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until squash is tender and browned.

While the squash is heating, prepare the pepitas.

Toasted Pepitas:
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil
pinch of salt
pinch of chili flakes
smokey paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup

Heat a skillet and add the oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the seeds, the salt and the spices if using. Watch closely and stir frequently. When the seeds begin to puff and change color, lower the hear and add the maple syrup. Stir until the syrup is absorbed. Lay the pepitas on parchment paper or use right away.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1/4-1/2 cup basil, torn
pinch of salt
fresh pepper
1/4 cup of cotija or other fresh crumbly cheese

Mix all ingredients (minus the cheese).

To assemble, place squash on serving dish, and top with the pepitas, and cotija. Pour the dressing to your liking over the whole thing. Serve.

*You can also use other seasonal squash or sweet potatoes or a combination.

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Chocolate Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

lisa and pumpkin

These are whoopie pies. They are delicious. Eat them all the time. I tried a variety of ways with these whoopie pies until I found the fluffliest cake and the richest pumpkin cream. The filling uses only a cup of canned pumpkin in the center and what are you going to do with the rest of the pumpkin? Using it in the batter brings the texture to perfection and minimizes pumpkin wasteage. The cookies themselves are not super sweet so it works especially well with the sweet cream filling.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
For the cookies
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup coconut oil
4 eggs
1/4 cup pumpkin
1/4 cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine all dry ingredients in a food processor. Add all wet ingredients and pulse together. Scoop scant tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheet. Flatten lightly. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.

For the filling
2 cups butter, at room temperature (or butter substitute)
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon milk (or milk substitute)

Beat the butter until smooth. Slowly add 1 1/4 cups of the powdered sugar. Add the pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth. If you want it sweeter, add more of the sugar. Add the milk if the filling is too thick to spread while sitting at room temperature. You can refrigerate up to a couple of days. Let come to room temperature when ready to use.

Assembly: Scoop a heaping tablespoon (or more) onto the center of the flat side of a cookie and place another cookie on top. Squeeze ever so gently to bring the filling out to the sides. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Homemade Strawberry Almond Milk

strawberry milk
I met my friend Emily at the age of 8. We had tea parties, we picked flowers, and we may have also tortured snails and slugs in the yard. I reminisce about things sporadically but there’s one thing I had completely forgotten from way back until now: strawberry milk.

Over the years, I spent many-a-weekend accompanying Emily and her family up to her grandparents’ house in Montecito. “Gaga” and “Papa” weren’t always at the house, but there were certain things I came to expect there. The squeeze bottle in the fridge of sweet, sweet, strawberry syrup was my favorite. Even trips during college included mixing the strawberry concoction into milk.

When I wasn’t in Montecito I never really thought twice about it. But this week I had these great strawberries on their last leg and it came to me. I decided to try my hand at recreating it but perhaps with a more refined palate. This version is simple, has no added sugar, and is packed full of sweet strawberries. So here I am, years later with a strawberry milk drink in my hand thinking about those weekends at Gaga and Papa’s place.

Emily: I hope you make this for your boys and I hope they like it as much as I do.

Homemade Strawberry Almond Milk
1 1/2 cup whole almonds, soaked overnight
3 1/2-4 cups of water
8-10 strawberries, hulled and quartered*
2-3 teaspoons honey

Discard the almond soaking water and rinse the almonds until the water is clear. Place in a blender with 3 1/2 cups water and blend thoroughly.

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. Line the sieve with a piece of cheesecloth large enough to fall over the edges. Pour slowly through the cheesecloth. Push the liquid through the cloth with a wooden spoon. When all of the liquid appears to have gone through, pick up the cheese cloth in your hands and squeeze the excess liquid into the bowl. There will be plenty more.

Add the chopped berries to the milk and 2 teaspoons of honey. Blend with an immersion blender, in a blender, or simply muddle it if you like it chunky. If you like it sweeter, add more honey.

Serve chilled. This also works with blackberries but strain the milk in order to remove some of those berry seeds.

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