a reimagined andean staple /// coconut almond rice pudding (vegan + gluten free)

November 1st, 2014. World vegan day, the start of world vegan month, and the 70th anniversary of the very first vegan society and the conception of the idea of veganism. So to encourage everyone to eat some more plants, here’s another recipe!

But before the recipe, a summary of my week (you know you wanna know): On Monday I ventured out in a downpour that turned into a thunderstorm to go to Correos del Ecuador (aka the post office) to mail my absentee ballot. It’s only my second time ever voting and the first for anything other than the school board.

I was filling the ballot out in school and one of my friends asked what it was. After I explained she asked if I was voting for Obama. I had to say that no, this election wasn’t for president (if it was I so would though). But even though it’s only a midterm election, that’s not a reason not to vote. So many Americans either don’t vote at all or only vote in presidential elections and then bitch about politicians they don’t like. You don’t have the right to complain if you didn’t vote.

Jenny and Luiza came over on Wednesday. I made brownies while Jenny watched, then when Luiza got here we carved a pumpkin! I picked him up at an indoor fruit/vegetable market (I would say similar to a farmer’s market, but it’s so different from any farmer’s market I’ve ever been to in the states. It’s like a giant produce section of the grocery store with individual vendors. I had to climb on top of a wall and a pile of pumpkins to find him). His name, apparently, is Fred. I wasn’t involved in that decision. And in case you were curious, the brownies were gone before they went home.

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The hot water has been turned off in my house this week. It’s now fixed so I can take a hot shower (thank god) but not for the sinks. The pipes were leaking and flooding the bodega behind the kitchen. Tuesday my shower only lasted 3 minutes; there was a small puddle out back when I was done.

Thursday my school gave out colada morada y guaguas (pronounced wawas, meaning children in Quechua, the language of the indigenous people) de pan during recess. It’s the traditional food and drink associated with the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, always on November 2nd). I didn’t eat the bread (wheat) but the drink was pretty good, and we’ve two pitchers chilling in our fridge right now. I’m not sure if my host family will be doing anything to celebrate it, but I don’t have school on Monday so that’s alright with me.

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Another friend of mine from school is a dancer; she takes hours of classes every week and wants to study dance in Argentina. Thursday evening I went with her to a bar/restuarant/movie theater further downtown for an event called Fiesta Swing. A friend of hers organized it, there was a brief performance and then the audience was invited to dance. I learned a few simple steps and really enjoyed the atmosphere. Sometimes I love Quito, sometimes it’s alright, and sometimes I just miss the Northeast. But experiences like that one remind me why I’m here.

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Halloween isn’t a huge deal in Ecuador- no trick or treating, and October 31st is actually the national day for the coat of arms on the flag- but it’s an excuse for a party. Jenny, Luiza and I went out with some of Jenny’s friends from school. Best way to stick out in Ecuador? Be friends with a blonde. People were approaching the gringas all night. We had a lot of fun; only thing that sucked was I neglected to bring a coat and the party ended up being outside.

On Thursday I also went grocery shopping, and picked up the ingredients for this recipe!

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I don’t think that a day has passed since I arrived that I haven’t had rice as a part of a meal. Sometimes when I’m scrounging up my own dinner from leftovers in the refrigerator, my meal is composed entirely of rice plus a sauce to make it more palatable (homemade guac, I’m looking at you). And yet, despite this overabundance of rice, it’s always consumed as part of a savory meal, and never thought to be included as a postre (dessert).

Traditional rice pudding is naturally gluten free, but usually made with dairy milk. But with how easy this is to make vegan- just sub coconut milk- a few months ago when I was still in the U.S. this became one of my favorite desserts. There are barely any ingredients and any real work involved, but the end result is oh-so delicious. Decadent as well, and people probably won’t believe you when you tell them it’s vegan. Because vegan food can’t possibly taste good, right?? I love proving people wrong on that.

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I prefer to make this with brown rice, but unfortunately all my host family buys is white, which has been processed to have the husks and bran removed. Unprocessed is always better- I feel like that should be obvious- it has more nutrients and the ever-important fiber.

Also, if you can, find coconut milk that doesn’t have added gums/thickeners or any other preservatives. And make sure the cans are BPA free. I haven’t tried this with any other non dairy milks, because I find coconut milk to be thicker and richer, and that’s what I like in pudding. But I don’t think it would alter the results too much.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 cups coconut milk (or 1 can that’s 13.5 fl oz./400 mL)
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup OR organic brown sugar (regular cane sugar will do if you have neither)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)
    For garnish: toasted coconut, cinnamon
  1. Bring the coconut milk, almond extract, and maple syrup/sugar to a boil
  2. Add the precooked rice, reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered, stirring constantly (if you don’t it will stick to the bottom of your pan) until the liquid is reduced. If you like a thicker rice pudding (I do) this will take longer than if you prefer your pudding to be more liquid-y
  3. Let cool enough that it won’t scald the roof of your mouth, serve, and garnish

*to cook rice (of the white variety): Bring two cups of water to a boil, then add 1 cup of dried rice, stir, cover, reduce to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes. When the time is up, uncover, fluff with a fork, and let sit for 5-10 minutes to dry it out. This will make approx. 3 cups of cooked rice

Takes approximately 25 minutes, not including cooking time for rice. The end result is not overly sweet so if you have more of a sweet tooth increase the sugar by 1 tbsp. The almond flavor is very present so if you have issues with that (what’s wrong with you?) either substitute vanilla or leave it out entirely. This makes 2 large servings or 3-4 smaller ones. You can save it in the refrigerator but I recommend heating it up before you eat it.

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