Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chocolate & Vanilla-Bean Pudding - And the Benefits of Gelatin!

Hey! Tonja here!

Haven't you heard? Gelatin is all the rage these days! At least in my neck of the woods. I admit, I am feeling more like a hippie as the months go by and I am sure some of my friends and family might be raising their eyebrows at me when I mention some of the new things I am consuming.

The newest thing is gelatin. Most of the "real food" movement has already been making their own broth at home from marrow bones because we know of the good benefits. That broth is the powerhouse behind chicken soup curing the common cold, NOT the Campbell's soup (or any other variety you can buy ready made in your local grocery store). Why the hype? A lot of it is for the gelatin. I have yet to make a batch of bone broth that doesn't gelatanize (that's a word, right?), but I have heard the horror stories out there of that happening!

So what's the big deal? According to the Weston A. Price Foundation (as taken from one of my favorite websites, Wellness Mama), there are various health benefits of gelatin, including:

  • Supports skin, hair and nail growth
  • Good for joints and can help joint recovery
  • Can help tighten loose skin
  • Can improve digestion since it naturally binds to water and helps food move more easily through the digestive tract
  • Rumored to help improve cellulite (!!!)
  • Great source of dietary collagen (which is a lot more effective than topical!)
  • Great source of protein at 6 grams per tablespoon, collagen, and amino acids. Of the amino acids, Glycine is reported to help liver function and Lysine is utilized in muscle building and calcium absorption. 
How do you get this wonderful gelatin? The best source out there seems to be Great Lakes Kosher Gelatin - it is sourced from grass-fed cows (which we all know is the way to go, right?) and comes in convenient canisters that make it easy to add it to just about anything you are making.

And what was I making? PUDDING! A throwback to the instant Jell-o pudding days of my youth. However, the amount of gelatin used in this recipe doesn't necessarily constitute enough in your daily intake to give you the benefits above, so Wellness Mama suggested a tablespoon mixed in warm water upon arising and just before bed - or adding to your favorite smoothie. But in the meantime.. have some pudding!

Chocolate Pudding

4 tsp Great Lakes Kosher Gelatin
1 (13.5oz) can Natural Value coconut milk*
1/2 cup blonde coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel-Vanilla Bean Pudding

4 tsp Great lakes Kosher Gelatin
1 (13.5 oz) can Natural Value coconut milk*
1/2 cup blonde coconut palm sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
1 tsp sea salt

(* I use this brand because the only ingredients are coconut and water - this means it is a VERY thick coconut milk. If you use another brand that is thinner - maybe Trader Joe's light coconut milk - you might just need to use a couple of cans instead of thinning it out with water as I say to do below)

In a measuring cup that measures beyond 24 ounces, pour in the can of coconut milk and whisk to make sure the coconut water is fully combined with the solids. Add in enough water to bring the mixture up to 24 ounces.

In a medium bowl, combine the 4 teaspoons of gelatin to 4 ounces of the coconut milk mixture and whisk until no lumps remain - set aside.

In a small sauce pot, combine the sugar, salt and remaining milk over a medium-low heat. Depending on the flavor you are making, also combine either the cocoa powder or the vanilla bean. To add the vanilla bean, take a knife and slice the bean halfway through all the way from end-to-end and open the bean up - all the good stuff is inside! Use a sharp knife and scrape from one end to the other to get all that good stuff out to put into the sauce pot. And why not, throw in the leftover whole bean skin too. Whisk this mixture until smooth and let it come to ALMOST a boil - once some bubbles start going steadily around the edges you are good.

If you are one of those people who feels they must, go ahead and strain the hot mixture into the reserved milk/gelatin mixture - I just dumped it in and only removed the whole vanilla bean. Whisk until everything is fully combined and add the vanilla extract to the chocolate flavor and combine well.

Set the bowl, uncovered, in the refrigerator. After about 15-20 minutes, cover the pudding with a sheet of plastic wrap that you press against the entire surface of the mixture. This is where patience comes in... mine didn't fully set for many, many hours - so making this the day before is probably a good idea. This ain't your mother's instant pudding, folks.

Another way this is different than instant Jell-O pudding? It definitely doesn't hold that creamy texture - more like actuall Jell-O than pudding. So, to serve, take a hand or stand mixer and beat it well for several minutes. It even helps to let the mixture warm up a tad before doing so. Do this RIGHT before serving - whipping and then refrigerating will bring it back to the Jell-O texture - which I didn't mind, but some people will.