Comfort Food - Refreshed

December 26, 2012

A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week: Kelly builds a dairy-free chocolate pudding on a base of pureed sweet potatoes.

chocolate sweet potato pudding
Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest

Kelly

I love pudding. I love the layered butterscotch-vanilla pudding in those little plastic cups. I love rice pudding, all warm and spicy. I love the Grape Nut pudding my mom occasionally makes for holidays (it’s an old-school New England baked custard, but I’ve never seen it anywhere except in my mom’s kitchen). I love bread pudding made of cubes of fluffy bread soaked in egg and cream and sugar, and then baked like a riff on super-sweet French toast. I love the bright green "pistachio"-flavored pudding that comes from the powder in a little cardboard box. I love the pudding from New York deli salad bars and Chinese food buffets. I love the “snow pudding” (more commonly known as ambrosia) that my Aunt Jane used to make for Christmas, big, white, puffy marshmallow-y mounds tumbling out of a large glass serving bowl. 

I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I’m wasn't sure what figgy pudding is. I had to look it up. It turns out, figgy pudding is a cake-like dessert covered in sticky-sweet sauce. Interesting. A cake! 

Figgy Pudding is a good reminder about the confusion around the term "pudding." So many things call themselves pudding, from creamy vanilla pudding in a cup to bread pudding you can eat with a fork to rice pudding studded with grains. One has a dairy base, one has a bread base, one has a rice base. And then there’s Yorkshire pudding, which, incidentally I have never enjoyed. It’s a popover kinda deal, cooked in beef fat, and totally savory. And then there’s blood pudding which is a kind of sausage. I mean, where do the similarities lie in all of these things? Some puddings are boiled, some puddings are steamed, some puddings are baked. I can’t really find a clear definition of what makes a pudding a pudding, anywhere. It’s confusing, but I’m okay with that.

I suppose when we’re talking about American styles of puddings, we’re generally talking about something sweet and usually creamy. This style of pudding is at once casual and luxurious, easy and delicious, fun and festive, the makings of a great dessert or a simple snack. Creamy puddings have always been one of my favorite foods, and so have sweet potatoes. 

That sweet potato thing might, at first, seem like a giant leap. Where am I heading with this? Well, let me share some simple sweet potato logic. A baked sweet potato, when cooled, peeled, and pureed, yields creamy, slightly sweet results. The consistency of pureed sweet potato is -- dare I say it? -- pudding like. And I’m sure you've had (or at least heard of) the baked, dessert-like recipe for mashed sweet potatoes topped with mini marshmallows. Sweet potatoes are historically a natural match for sweet flavorings.

In this Chocolate Sweet Potato Pudding, I just take it a step further by adding a good scoop of unsweetened cocoa powder, some honey (which is floral and the perfect thing to sweeten up the deal), and coconut milk. A bit of cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla are incorporated, too. I blend all of that in the blender or food processor, cool it down completely, top it with some chopped pecans or flaked coconut (or any sort of festive sweet garnish you like), and serve it proudly. It’s just sweet enough and incredibly creamy. It’s a perfect little pudding, and it will truly surprise your dinner guests when you tell them that the base is nutrient-packed sweet potatoes. Thank goodness for the broad definition of pudding and the playfulness it allows!

Chocolate Sweet Potato Pudding

Serves 4-6

2 large sweet potatoes
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons honey (or more to taste)
1/2 cup coconut milk (from a can)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!

Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips. I'll be preparing this chocolate pudding on Friday, December 28, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at our Columbus Circle store.

If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.

Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Cauliflower Potato Puree with Parsley, Chives and Toasted Bread Crumbs.

Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

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