Friday, February 14, 2014

Coconut Tapioca Pudding (pssst it's vegan!)

Photo by Jacob Marre
This is definitely an "I can't believe it's vegan" kinda recipe. Kids' Table is vegetarian, but not vegan. And I'm not personally vegan. Though I am testing the waters. It's not that long ago that the thought of going a day without cheese would have made me break into a cold sweat. In recent years, I've become less and less of a dairy fan, both for personal health reasons and on principle.

About 5 or 6 years ago I discovered that my younger son, Aleks, had a dairy allergy. No vomiting, no hives, no serious respiratory distress. Just lots of congestion (which the pediatrician blamed on seasonal allergies), and very rosy cheeks.
Because of what I do for a living, I looked at his diet, suspecting either dairy or gluten as a possible culprit. Low and behold a blood test revealed an allergy to dairy. Aleks was a serious milk drinker - at least 3 cups a day. It turns out that he, like many people, was addicted to his allergy. Needless to say, those first few weeks were brutal. But they passed, as things do. And with the milk went Aleks's "seasonal allergies." Since allergies are frequently genetic, I thought of my cheese addiction and decided to tone my dairy intake down. I didn't have any seasonal allergies to get rid of, but I was happy to see my rosacea and adolescent level breakouts disappear.

Then there is the dairy industry - the hormones, antibiotics, living conditions of the dairy cows and extensive processing of the milk. And the question of whether dairy is the best source of calcium, or whether milk does a body good at all.

So while I'm not off the stuff yet, I'm working on finding acceptable substitutes for my favorite dairy treats, or perhaps more importantly, for my kids' favorite dairy treats. This Coconut Tapioca Pudding takes the cake! My older son, Jake, was a willing guinea pig for my many rounds of recipe testing. He took the photos posted here in exchange for a few days of all-you-can-eat pudding. I'm happy to say that this is now his pudding of choice - over the dairy and egg-rich varieties. I hope it goes over as well in your home!  Enjoy….

Coconut Tapioca Pudding

1/2 cup small tapioca pearls
3 cups unsweetened rice milk
1/2 cup sugar
Few pinches salt
1 can coconut milk (full fat)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine tapioca, rice milk, water, sugar and salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, still whisking frequently. Mixture should be nicely thickened at this point.

Add coconut milk and simmer for another 10 minutes, continuing to whisk frequently. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold. For added pizzazz, serve with a side of fresh pineapple or top with toasted coconut.

Makes 6 servings

Photo by Jacob Marre
What kids can do (with appropriate tools and supervision)
*Measure ingredients
*Pinch salt
*Whisk mixture in pot before it goes on the stove (and if you think your kids are ready, while it cooks as well)
*Stir pudding periodically while it cools

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