Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Acorn Squash Pudding

Mom belongs to a CSA. CSAs are awesome except when you get too much of something that you don't like to cook much. Mom had 3 acorn squashes. Do I want 'em? Dang tootin'! It's a winter squash! I Iove my winter squash! Unfortunately, one was visibly past prime. Threw it out. One looked fine, but after cooking didn't taste particularly good. I've heard too many stories of people getting sick on past prime winter squash so I tossed that one too. (On the other hand, its possible that it actually wasn't old *enough*, as I've read a fair number of anecdotes about winter squash being sweeter after chill & age.)

That left only one. I should've known there could be only one. (1) What does one do with only one acorn squash? PUDDING! (2)

While winter squashes are yummy, they are traditionally a bit of a pain to get into. One needs sharp knives and a strong arm for most of them, and then they need to roast this side of forever. I hear that acorn squash are one of the exceptions to this rule, but as I wasn't feeling particularly adventurous, I took my usual winter squash shortcut and used the microwave.

Bonus recipe: To microwave acorn squash: wash, dry, stab a few times with a sharp knife (to let the steam out) and nuke 5+ minutes on a paper towel or large microwaveable bowl (because squash juice will leak from the vents). After 5 minutes, see if the top (around the stem) will squish. If not, nuke longer. All the web instructions I saw said the total would be 10-25 minutes and to check and turn every 5 minutes. Mine took 7 & 8 minutes respectively. O.o I either have a super powered microwave, or particularly small acorn squash. (I'm hoping for the former, just in case we get gremlins.)

Anyhow, once the squash is cool enough to handle, cut in half, scrape out the seeds in one bowl, and the squash into another. Ta-Dah! Done. (3)

(I plan to try the oven route sometime to see if the roasting makes it sweeter, but I'm skeptical of this. I think acorn squash just isn't that sweet a variety of winter squash.)


  • 1 acorn squash, cooked, seeded & scraped out of skin, about 1&1/2 cups cooked (4)
  • 1 tsp gingerbread mix (cinnamon/ginger/clove mixed 4:4:1)
  • 1tsp v old nutmeg (I will be trying the second go round with fresher spice! I already bought the bottle!)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp butter (chosen because I was going for a pumpkin pie flavor)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
The way I put it together:

1.) Put all ingredients into a small sauce pan, bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, probably over medium-low heat.

2) After five minutes, realize that just because cooking squash makes it squishy, does not mean that it self purées. It's not stirring easily and it sticking to the bottom aaaand yes, starting to burn a bit.

3) Turn off the heat, sigh dramatically, pour it all into a blender. Blend until smooth, about 45 seconds, and return it to the pot on low simmer for another 25 minutes.

How I should have put it together:

1) Realize that the microwave had pre cooked the squash for me & that I could blend it into the coconut milk right away. Blend all ingredients.

2) Pour purée into sauce pan, bring to a boil & back down to a slow simmer. Simmer on med-low heat for about a half hour, stirring every few minutes, turning it down if it seems to bubble too aggressively. (We want it to cook down, not burn.)

3) Pour into 3-4 custard cups, and refrigerate as long as you can stand to wait, or at least 45 minutes. (Have you noticed? That's usually my max patience time on pudding.)


Texture: MUY PERFECTO! 10/10. It is pudding! It is creamy! It holds its shape like pudding! It is squishy perfection. This probably has the best texture of anything I made yet - possibly because I cooked it a few minutes longer, possibly because (I think) winter squash contains a bit of starch. Pudding is traditionally thickened with a bit of starch - flour, corn starch, etc. Clearly, I won't be doing that, so I think technically all my puddings are closer to custards (which get their thickness from the fatty goodness of egg yolk). (5)

Flavor: 8/10 if you ignore the faint burnt flavor. (With burn flavor, i thought it was a bit lower.) You're not going to burn YOURS though, because I have already made that mistake for you! I am SO generous!

Sweetness note: how unsweetened this was surprised me. I had intended just to add a half tablespoon of maple syrup, just for the flavor. It wasn't sweet enough. It needed the full tbsp. (My fault for not googling the sugar content of an acorn squash before I cooked, and yes, I looked up apples, pears & mangoes before doing the other recipes.). That said, it's still unsweet enough that this would make at least as good a side dish as a dessert. (If you're just here for the gluten free & not interested in or used to eating only lightly sweetened things you may want to double the maple syrup. Or not. It's a food adventure after all!)

Then again, maybe it needed more sweet because it came out to twice as many portions as usual. Which turned out awesome upon coming home from a very long, very busy (very lunch free and hungry) day of work to find this in the fridge. Gave me SOMETHING fast to eat so that I could have enough IQ points to figure out a real meal.

"Normal" person taste buds: spouse said it was good, and when I made protest noises about the slight burnt flavor and that he didn't HAVE to eat it, he pulled the bowl closer to him and hunched over it protectively. So he was probably not just being tactful.

Improvements planned for next time: Nutmeg from this century, and any other variety of UNBURNT winter squash. I have a butternut squash begging to be puddinged. (6) In short, this is a very worthy concept, but it wants to be sweeter.


(1) I am a very, VERY big nerd. If you're not catching the reference, don't worry about it.

(2) Of course, pudding is my default answer to the question of "what do I do with" absolutely anything these days.

(3) If you're feeling crafty or frugal, you can then wash off the seeds & toast them with spices - same as pumpkin seeds. I'm told they're delicious and I always wash them. However, I never actually remember to toast the seeds before they go bad in the fridge. and cannot point you to any particular recipe. Seeds are way less motivating than pudding.

(4) If cooking up your own winter squash sounds like too much work, you can get frozen winter squash purée sometimes in the grocery store. Pumpkin in a can should work just fine too, but probably won't need to cook down as long. May even taste better. But check the ingredients carefully if you go this route - pumpkin in a can is sometimes just pumpkin, but sometimes full pie mix meaning tons of added sugar & spices.

(5) Pudding vs Custard info courtesy of Alton Brown, (video link) who is my favorite TV cooking nerd. Well, him and Ted Allen. Okay, AND America's Test Kitchen. Okay, let's face it, I'm a sucker for anyone who can be described as a cooking nerd. Food AND science! What could be better?

(6) Pudding is TOO a verb.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pear Gingerbread Pudding, 2.0

The first version of Pear Gingerbread Pudding was awesome - in all but texture.  So I asked around and did some research and voila, two good suggestions:

1) My friend Amanda suggested that I might want to carmelize the pears before blending them into the coconut milk. ("Carmelize?"  "Low & slow, in some fat." "I can do that.")

2) Thanks be to google, I found that Bartlett pears were likely to have a less grainy texture than the Anjou I tried the first time. I also kept it in a paper bag for a day or two to make sure it was thoroughly ripe - the steak knife I used to peel & chop slid through it like butter.

I also added one of my own ideas - a little fresh ginger.  Nom!  So without further ado:

Pear Gingerbread Pudding, 2.0

* 1/2 can coconut milk
* 2 tbsp butter (grassfed)
* 1 pear (Bartlett, or other creamy pear), chopped and peeled
* 1/2 tsp ginger/cinnamon/clove mix (I have a bottle of these spices mixed 4:4:1 ratio)
* 1/2 tbsp molasses
* ~1/8 tsp salt
*  a knob of fresh ginger, peeled, about 1.5 inches long

1) Melt butter in small saucepan, over low-medium heat.  Add pears, salt, and dry spices and simmer about 5-10 minutes.  (*) Stir frequently.

2) Pour simmered pears & coconut milk into blender, and purée (about 45 seconds).

3) Return to the pot, add the molasses and simmer another 25 minutes.  At some point in the 25 minutes, add the knob of ginger (pictured below).  (I added it about 15 minutes in because I forgot earlier.) :). Stir every few minutes.

4) Remove knob of ginger, pour into 2 custard cups (**) and refrigerate.  Minimum of an hour & a half. I barely manage to hold out that long. :)


YES YES YES 10/10 and spouse agrees! 

Texture - perfectly creamy!  Not quite as thick as I was aiming for but totally custard like and delicious!  Great on its own, and also I think would go beautifully over a relatively simple cake if you are eating that kind of thing.

Flavor - still a huge win!

Normal person taste buds: Spouse made a very VERY happy face.  Said he liked it better than pumpkin pie (which he hasn't been able to eat in 15+ years.). Said with a touch of whipped cream and sprinkling of nutmeg would make the perfect seasonal holiday dessert to end a dinner party.


(*) at this stage, this would make a nice side dish to a savory meal or pancake topping.  

(**) I've taken to putting the custard cups into the freezer ahead of time so that the pudding will set up faster, because I have seriously grabby hands about my pudding. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

About my labels - a glossary

I think tagging is just about the most useful thing on the internet.  But sometimes explanation is a good thing:

Booze - where some kind of alcohol (other than vanilla extract), such as Campari or frangelico, is an important flavor component.

clean paleo - In short: grain, dairy, legume & refined sugar free. There are probably a million different ways of implementing a paleo diet, some people need to be stricter than others.  This label applies to the recipes that are on the stricter end.  Given that this is a blog about PUDDING for goodness sakes, we can take it as a given that there will be a fair number of recipes with mild cheats, so I wanted a label for people who really need (or want) to avoid dietary slips.

coconut - This means a recipe with coconut as a major flavor, not just coconut milk as an ingredient.  I use coconut milk in so many of my puddings because it is ridiculously convenient - both easy to find in stores and makes creamy puddings easy to make.  I don't actually care for coconut flavor that much - the coconut oil I use in many recipes is the expeller pressed variety from Tropical Traditions (*) because the "steam deodorizing" in the processing actually takes away the flavor.  I like a few things to taste like coconut, but dear lord not EVERYTHING.

dairy free - While this is included in the definiton of paleo, some people will be searching for dairy-free recipes who've never heard of paleo.  I'm being helpful!  Or possibly obsessive.  You decide!

parve - This is a hebrew term from the rules of kashrut that means neither meat nor dairy - it's a neutral dish that can be served with either a meat or dairy meal and still be considered kosher .  It's not quite the same as vegan.  It means no meat or dairy, but there could be egg or honey hiding within.

vegan - Sometimes my recipes will be accidentally vegan - no dairy, no egg, no meat, no honey. :)  I suppose this label could be useful to someone, somewhere.

WIP - Work in Progress.  To be fair, almost all of my posts should be considered a WIP because I am ridiculously fussy about how I like my food.  I don't post a recipe unless it's tasty, but unless it came out JUST RIGHT, I plan on doing at least a second draft of it.  The WIP label is your warning that I think it could be improved.  Or you could take it as a challenge and fix it yourself. :D

Speaking of WIP - this post is definitely one.  Anytime I add a potentially confusing new label, I'll add it here.


(*) I get no commission if you buy via this link, but in the interests of scrupulous honesty, at some point in the future, eventually, it's likely that I will link to amazon products I find particularly useful or other such things where I may take a commission.  I'll probably give a new disclaimer then.  I am the proud owner of nearly pathological honesty.  You may have noticed that I even record all the places my recipes have gone wrong. :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mango Lime Coconut Pudding

I think I'm getting the hang of these fruit puddings.  The key principles seem to be:

1) Ripe, sweet fruit, peeled, and preferably smooth textured
2) Sufficient saturated fat to make it gel in the fridge
3) Cook it all long enough to soften the fruit, blend the bejesus out of it & cook long enough for it to sweeten itself
4) A hint of salt to enhance the sweet
5) Plus flavor enhancer (spice, vanilla, acid, etc), a little if the flavor base liquid doesn't need to be masked, a lot if it does

Without further ado, Mango Coconut Lime Pudding!

* 1/2 can coconut milk
* 2 tbsp coconut oil (I use the expeller pressed, non-coconut flavoured coconut oil, but you can use the regular kind if you want a stronger coconut flavor)
* 3/4 cup cubed mango (I used the frozen dole cubes; frozen is nearly as good as fresh, and is generally more reliable regarding peak ripeness & smooth texture) (*)
* Dash of cardamom (I promise, I'll measure next time!)
* 1/8 tsp salt
* 1 tsp lime juice, FRESH PLEASE, bottled is an abomination (**)
* Zest from one lime (optional)

Makes 2 portions

1) Throw everything except lime juice & zest into small pot.  Bring to a boil, and then lower back to a simmer for 5 minutes.

2) Blend the daylights out of it. (I put over-ear headphones on for noise protection and blend to a count of 45 in my head.)

3) Pour back into small pot, simmer another 25 minutes, (almost minimally low heat on my stovetop), stirring every few minutes.  After about 10 minutes, add lime juice. (***)  (Possibly this can be done earlier, I had it in my head that the acid would denaturize & evaporate if I added it too soon.  I need to research this further.  I don't know how important that is.)

4) turn off heat, stir in lime zest (and this SHOULD definitely be added at the end, citrus essential oils evaporate FAST), (*+*) pour into custard cups, refrigerate.

5) Lick spoon & edges of pot once it cools.  Then check your email, your twitter, your Facebook, and repeat, trying to keep your grabby little hands OFF THE PUDDING until it cools enough to gel.

Results, mostly good, but mixed:

Texture: 9/10, definitely pudding, but didn't love the stringy bits of the zest.    Will probably skip the zest next time, or if I'm feeling SOOOPER motivated, I may blend it a second time.

Flavor: 8.5/10.  I achieved the good, bright clean mango flavor I was looking for, but it came out just a little more acid than I wanted. I'll try reducing the lime juice a bit next time. Definitely good though. Just not the OMG I AM INCREDIBLE good that the flavor of the pear-gingerbread got.

Normal person tastebud response: Complete Failure, but under very specialized circumstances.  Spouse did not like one bit.  He made a very unhappy face.  Of course, we realized a few minutes after I'd finished all the pudding, (what did you expect??) that he'd had peanut butter & chips with salsa for dinner only a few minutes before.  I'm thinking those flavors might not blend with mango all that well.  Next time he taste tests a pudding, I'm making sure he has a palette cleanser first!


(*) Some mangoes have a lovely, smooth as butter texture, while others double as dental floss.  I used to think this was a matter of ripeness, but more recently started noticing that it appears to depend on variety. I found a blog post, http://www.mangomaven.com/the-trouble-with-tommy/ (*++*) which discusses the matter further. I strongly suspect the smooth version to be far more appropriate for this recipe, but I haven't actually tried cooking the OMG OUT GET THIS OUT OF MY TEETH variety. 

(**) This is a quote from Rachel Maddow on one of her cocktail moments, (okay, it was about lemon juice, not lime, but still) and she is a Rhodes Scholar, so it must be true!  Also, bottled lime juice is way the hell less paleo and much less tasty than fresh.

(***)  Possibly the lime juice can be added earlier, but I had it in my head that the acid would denaturize & evaporate if I added it too soon.  I need to research or test this further.

(*+*) I'm not convinced the zest made that big a difference.  It smelled great when I did it, and my fingertips still smelled pretty awesome an hour later.  But I'm not sure if actually changed the flavor much.  Possibly this is because I am paranoid & washed the fruit with soap & water before zesting. (It's rather unusual to get citrus that isn't sprayed with pesticides.) I may have washed away flavor. I also didn't really love the texture of the zest. Too many strikes -- I'll probably skip the zest next time.

(*++*) despite similarities in name between the mango blog and my website, and the apparent similar senses of humor (as evidenced by his/her description of Tommy Atkins mangoes as "stringy little bastards"), I am not the mango maven, nor have I ever met the person before.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pear gingerbread pudding

The apple pie pudding was so tasty that when I saw pears sitting in my fruit bowl, I had to try them next.  I wanted to do something a little different. I thought that just doing the apple recipe with pear wouldn't teach me much. (Which was wrong, as I'll point out later.) I thought ginger pear sounded good... And then pear gingerbread jumped into my head and held one of the smaller ganglia hostage.  I NEED MY GANGLIA.  I don't have any spares!  I had no choice! (*)

I started similar to the apple recipe, but I wanted to get a real gingerbread flavor, which was accomplished with the additions of butter, ginger, clove & a bit of molasses.(**)

This recipe is a bit of a rough draft, but since several people asked for it... Here's my lab notes for the experiment.

* 1/2 can coconut milk
* 2 tbsp butter (grassfed)
* 1 pear (I used Anjou, probably a mistake), chopped and peeled
* 1/2 tsp ginger/cinnamon/clove mix (I have a bottle of these spices mixed 4:4:1 ratio)
* 3/4 tbsp molasses (I was aiming for 1/2, but the molasses pour is challenging to control)
~1/8 tsp salt (look, look, I measured! I'm so proud!)

1) Peel and chop pear.  [I'm not sure how you're supposed to peel a pear, so I did it the same way I do with an apple - I take a steak knife and peel round & round.  No doubt you can do so by carving an X and blanching, same as you do for peaches, tomatoes, etc, but that seems like a lot of work for a single pear.]

2) Blend pear in coconut milk.  [The only downside to the apple pie pudding recipe was that it came out just slightly apple-saucey in texture.  I thought that might be due to the stick blender not being as good as the real one, so I tried blending it in advance.]

3) Pour pear/coconut mixture into small saucepan, and add all other ingredients.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer at least 15 minutes, 30 is probably better. [I had the idea that being smaller pieces would cook faster.  Logical, right?  Wrong.  The texture of the pudding didn't set up as well as the others I've made.  I think it needs a longer cooking time to cook off more water.]

4) Pour into pudding cups and refrigerate for as long as you can hold out. (Again, I made it maybe an hour before tasting the first batch.)

4b) I wanted to try a few spice variations, so I split this into 4 pudding cups, one As-Is, one with a sprinkle of allspice, one with a sprinkle of allspice & black pepper, and one with just pepper.  I stirred a bunch to make sure the spicing was evenly distributed before sticking them in the fridge.  I thought both the allspice & the allspice + pepper variations were equal improvements, just different. Pepper alone only warmed it.  I'll be playing with the spice variants next time I try this because I think the cooked spice is different from just having it mixed in.  I also suspect fresh ground pepper might be better and have more of the intrinsic sweet notes.


Flavor - 10/10 - I AM A GENIUS.  In-freakin-credible. I think maybe a little fresh ginger juice might turn it up to 11, but damn this is good now.

Texture - 6/10 - and it's only that high because spouse insisted it was fine.  It was not fine.  It was grainy.  Okay, it was very find grained, but still, grainy.  I think this can be fixed with a combination of a) longer cooking time, and b) A SMOOTHER BREED OF PEAR, DUH!  I think Bartlett would be ideal.  I'll be repeating this another time to figure it out because as I said before OMG FLAVOR OF AMAZEBALLS.  Also possibly straining it.  (I'm totally open to any feedback y'all might have on this.)
Normal person taste bud response - Very Good. Spouse said he'd serve it to guests as long as it was dressed up visually with some fresh berries or whipped cream.  This is his second highest for of praise for food flavor.  (His first highest is "Chris-worthy."  Chris is a friend of ours who is a foodie of the highest degree.)  

(*) That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  

(**) it's just a little bit of molasses! If this serves two, then each person gets 3/8 tbsp molasses, or a whole 5g of sugar.  My Paleo principles are just fine with that tiny compromise.  Yours might not be.  If yours aren't and you try without, or with stevia, please tell me how it works for you.  Also, again, the butter isn't pure paleo.  I'm okay with a little bit of grassfed butter in my diet.  It's a fabulous source of vitamin K2.  If you can't have it though, substitute another saturated fat. (Saturated will help it set up in the fridge.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Apple pie pudding - the pudding that started it all

I've been wanting to try Andy Dees' coconut apple pudding forever. I finally gave it a try the other night, and (as I am incapable of not tweaking a recipe) I accidentally came up with apple pie flavor!


* 2 small gala apples (they have the sweet/tart flavor I like best, though I bet pink lady apples would be even better), peeled & chopped
* 1/2 can coconut milk
* 2 tbsp coconut oil
* 2 pinches salt (I know, pinches.  God.  My background in the sciences is totally mortified over this, but it's what I did.)
* 1/2 tsp cinnamon
* 1 tsp vanilla extract (totally homemade vanilla extract, its easy and awesome)

1.) Peel & chop the apples.  For some reason I diced them, my brain was running on auto-pilot.  Though for future recipes, it could be fun to reserve about half the dice to sprinkle in at the end for texture.

2.) Put it all in a small saucepan except for the vanilla, bring to a boil & back down to a simmer.  Simmer 20 minutes.

3.) Add vanilla, simmer 10 more minutes. (I had the idea in my head that if I added it at the beginning, I'd cook off all the flavor.  Not sure how valid this is.  But I did at least want to cook off the alcohol, so this was my compromise.  Feedback on this issue is welcome.)

4.) Take off heat and blend the bejesus out of it.  I used an immersion blender because putting hot things in a real blender makes me nervous.

5.) Pour in little bowls & chill.  The original recipe says to chill 24 hours.  I don't think I managed to wait more than an hour, but it was still really good!

Serves 2, or in this case one wide-eyed and drooling acupuncturist. (I was so surprised at how good it came out that I couldn't quite leave the second one alone. I held out for a whole half hour.)

Texture result: 3/4 pudding, 1/4 applesauce.  Just slightly grainy in a way that was reminiscent of rice pudding.  It set up fairly well, but not *quite* as pudding as I wanted it to.  Possibly this has something to do with not letting it chill. *eyerolls*

Flavor result: WIN!  Omg.  Tastes like apple pie!!

Future experiments: I want to try replacing the coconut oils with butter, and possibly tempering an egg into it in the last five minutes, both of which I think will give it a slightly more baked-goods flavor. [EDIT: Please note, if you're new to paleo, the butter no longer makes it "pure paleo" or dairy free, but rather a frequently accepted modification.  Also, neither butter nor eggs are vegan if you followed that label here.  But you knew that, right?]

Credit where credit is due: