Friday, February 25, 2011

Instead Foods

A couple of years ago my sister was going through a phase where she only wanted to eat hot wings. OK, so that phase has lasted up until the present (we've gone to Fire On the Mountain, THE place to get wings in Portland, OR twice in the last five weeks), but it kind of used to be worse. When she was trying to loose weight her friend suggested she make "hot wing salads" of baked chicken breasts over lettuce with hot sauce and blue cheese dressing.

This is an example of what I call an instead food - instead of eating the thing that is really not good for you, you eat something that kind of fills that craving you are having. Unfortunately, like the hot wing salads, most instead foods just aren't quite the real thing.

I have recently been in need of an instead food for my ice cream addiction. Firstly, no one needs to be eating ice cream at the rate I can put the stuff away. Sweet, creamy and chocolate are my three favorite things and there's a grocery store in my neighborhood that sells Hagen Dazs at less than 3 dollars a pint. Secondly, I am coming to the realization that with my third decade of life is coming less and less tolerance for conventional dairy products. Especially fatty and sweet dairy products. Sadness.

So I began the hunt for my chocolate ice cream instead food. Coconut milk is a wonderful substitute for creamy and sweet so I looked into coconut milk ice creams. There is one good quality, all natural brand here in Oregon called Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss that really is blissful but at 7 dollars a pint or more that is just not gonna cut it. So Delicious makes a coconut milk ice cream that is more reasonably priced, but is full of guar gums and "natural flavors". I was lamenting this situation on Facebook when a friend of a friend said that she makes ice cream in her freezer without an ice cream maker. I immediately turned to google to see if this miracle could be true. Sure enough, David Lebowitz has a recipe for ice cream made in a shallow pan that you stir up every 45 minutes or so. I combined his method with The Nourishing Gourmet's recipe and ended up with an amazing product. Who knew it could be so easy?!?

I wondered what else I could accomplish with this amazing coconut milk and chocolate combination and my mind immediately turned to pudding. I didn't grow up eating pudding but have come to appreciate it's creamy texture and the fact that it comes in truly single serving size containers. I this recipe from vanilla & lace and was very pleased with the flavor and set of the pudding. For the ice cream I had used a canned coconut cream but for the pudding I used So Delicious brand coconut milk. It comes in a tetrapack, is much lower in fat and more like cows milk in consistency. It doesn't give the same really creamy texture as the coconut cream, but the cornstarch does a fine job of creating the pudding texture that fools you into thinking its really fatty and creamy. I poured the hot pudding into 1/2 cup sized tupperware containers and had my own pudding packs in the fridge.

The main problem with my first batch of pudding was the lumps of cornstarch that come from adding the cornstarch to the hot chocolate milk. For my second batch of pudding I used Martha Stewart's recipe that has you whisk small amounts of milk into the cornstarch at the very beginning of the process to form a paste, then add the rest of the milk. I also added a little cinnamon to the pudding for a refined, adult flavor and again poured it into small plastic containers for individual servings. The recipe was 100% successful and definitely a dessert worthy of eating alone in front of a rerun of Sex in the City or serving at the end of a dinner party.

Photos by stu_spivak and llsimon53. Please click on their names or photos and see what else they've been cooking up!