I like a challenge, and I like to improvise.
A friend’s daughter has some massive dietary restrictions, and I’ve been dying to cook for her. I finally got my chance at one event.
Sugar… Wheat gluten… Dairy… Peanuts… Corn… Eggs… Chocolate… Imagine being a little kid going to all of these pizza and cake-laden birthday parties unable to have any of these things? Her mother was resigned to always bring the stash of food – both treats and staples – that her child could safely eat. And they both managed through, at every event, with grace and good cheer. I wanted to, and I knew I could, do better by them when it was my turn to host.
For starters, I made sure there were a lot of other menu options she could have from among the snackies, dips and grilled fruits, vegetables and meats. I took it as an opportunity to put out a healthier menu for a kids’ party. Grilling kept ingredients simple and the process manageable.
Still, I really wanted to do something special for her for dessert. Gradually, I cobbled together a plan.
I remembered vegan recipes I’ve used before for cashew cream and used that as a base. I landed on a pudding cup format and, when I didn’t have time to run out for bananas (my original flavor choice), the coconut oil literally jumped off the shelf and reminded me there was a good bit of unsweetened, dehydrated, shredded coconut in my pantry, patiently waiting to be used for such an occasion.
The coconut oil itself saw use as well – being drizzled into the initial cashew and water slurry in my blender to help emulsify it (as one would with a mayonnaise). The shredded coconut itself also thickened things a bit, and I finished it off with some agave syrup for extra sweetening.
Because I had it on hand, and everyone else could have dairy, I whipped up some heavy cream, flavoring it lightly with vanilla and agave so that other people could add it to their “custards.” As a bonus, it paired extraordinarily well with the pineapple and plums I’d dusted with cinnamon and tossed on the grill – a combination that will very likely be leveraged in a future parfait.
The sugar-free guests were pretty happy all around, but, more importantly, the little girl and her mom liked it.