Sunday, February 26, 2017

Coconut Tapioca Pudding

One of my all time favorite snack foods from the olden days when I lived in America has got to be rice pudding- and not just any rice pudding- Kozy Shack rice pudding- the absolute best, creamiest and most delicious pudding ever. Every summer when I would fly back to visit, I would make sure there were containers of this deliciousness waiting for me upon arrival. Creamy, vanilla-y, sweet but not too sweet and only enhanced by a hefty shake of good quality cinnamon, my mouth still waters at the thought. Well, exactly one year ago (happy healthaversary to us!) the hubs and I decided to start living healthier lives, exercising more, and cutting out sugar and refined carbs from our diet. I am happy to report that together we have lost a total of over 80 pounds and we feel great!! But I still sometimes miss my Kozy Shack. So to celebrate this milestone in our lives I made this tapioca pudding using coconut cream that comes so close to my rice pudding memories that I was in creamy pudding heaven. Best part? It is pareve, vegan, has no refined sugar,takes 15 minutes to come together, and is pretty healthy as dessert goes. I'm hooked! Serve topped with some fresh fruit (mango is traditional but strawberries are also great) and you have a beautiful and healthy dessert. Enjoy!

1 cup small tapioca pearls- the tapioca pearls I get do not require soaking- if yours do, let them sit in the coconut mixture for 15 minutes or as long as your package says before turning on the heat.
4 cups coconut cream (NOT cream of coconut)
4 cups water
1/2 a vanilla bean (alternatively you can use 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract added after the pudding is removed from the fire)
good pinch of a salt
1 teaspoon good quality cinnamon
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (plus more to taste)

Into a large sauce pan pour the coconut cream and water. Open and scrape the vanilla bean adding the bean and the scrapings to the coconut mixture. Add the salt, cinnamon, maple syrup, and the tapioca pearls and bring the mixture up to a slow simmer. Let the mixture cook over medium heat mixing very often for about 15 minutes until the mixture thickens and the pearls have swelled and are translucent. Taste to see if you want it sweeter in which case add in a little more maple syrup. Let cool completely and then place in the fridge. The mixture will thicken to full pudding texture once it is refrigerated for a couple of hours. Serve sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with fresh fruit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pasta Fagioli

All winter I have been craving soups. If you know me, you would know this is weird, because I am not a soup person. I mean, I'll eat it if it's put in front of me, and I make it all the time, but I'll never order it in a restaurant and I certainly never yearn for a bowl. But ever since I started making my own vegetable, beef, and chicken stock, thus enriching the flavor of my soups by leaps and bounds, I've been hooked. In America, there is easy access to quality boxed stocks, here, however, all there is is soup mix, and so taking the time to make stock, for me, was about giving my family the healthiest base for soups, stews, and sauces. What is Pasta Fagioli you ask? This famous Italian soup seems awfully similar to Minestrone if you think about it- but where Minestrone is meant to have lots of vegetables, Pasta Fagioli is light on the veggies and heavy on the beans and pasta, a perfect hearty soup for winter time. In keeping with our recent lower carb and healthier lifestyle, I used rice and quinoa pasta which worked out great, but any pasta will do. And like most soups, the flavor of this soup increases and gets more delicious as it sits. We ate it for the better part of a week and couldn't get enough. Enjoy!

3 Tbl olive oil
1 large onion, (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 large carrots, sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
400 gram (14 ounces) can chopped tomato
1 570 gram can of 22x tomato paste (this is for Israeli users, In america use one small can of tomato paste)
3 liters (12 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup white beans, soaked overnight (This will yield approximately 21/2 cups of beans after soaking)
200 grams (7 ounces) of defrosted and drained frozen spinach (you can also use fresh),about 7 cubes of leaf spinach
2 cups of short pasta
salt and pepper

In a large pot heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, oregano, basil, and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and let it cook for a minute to cook the alcohol out. Add the tomato, tomato paste and stock. Mix well and then add the beans. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and then let it simmer for about 2 hours until the beans are tender. You can let it simmer even longer, the longer it goes the better the deeper the flavor will be. Once it is done, remove the bay leaf and then  remove 2 cups of mixture and blend it with an immersion blender and then add it back to the soup. This will give the soup great body. Add the spinach and cook another 5 minutes. The pasta can be added directly into the soup where you can cook it another 7 minutes or so until the pasta is tender. I prefer to cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl when I serve it so the pasta doesn't get bloated and soggy