Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: Part 2 & Sweet Potato Chia Pudding

Gluten-Free Vegan Sweet Potato Chia Pudding Parfait

Where did I leave off?  Oh yeah... Gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free Thanksgiving potluck.  Some people might hear that and say, "What are you supposed to eat then?"  My answer: "Absolutely delicious food that allows the group of us to remain in peace and harmony with our bodies."

This was a gathering of mostly coworkers, past and present, from The Steeping Room and close mutual friends on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  While all the food that evening was free of gluten, soy, and animal products, it's not because the group of us as a whole need to eat that way.  Most of us are gluten-free, many are vegan, and some are soy-free.  The combination of dietary constraints was just the greatest common divisor that would allow all of us to celebrate Thanksgiving, each other, and not have to worry about or fear the food in front of us.  

The following are pictures from that evening.  The food, the friends, the family.

Some of my favorite ladies.

The hosts: Heather & Conor

Orange-Infused Roasted Beets

Quinoa Pilaf with Dried Fruits & Nuts

Mediterranean Kale & Chickpea Salad

Sheperd's Pie with Lentils & Corn

I was only able to take pictures of roughly half the food.  My compulsive need to photograph food was a bit at odds with everyone else's need to eat.  While everything was delicious, favorite dishes that just put it over the top for me were the green beans in white wine vinegar, gravy made from almond milk, cornbread stuffing with cranberries and sage, and a slightly sweet quinoa pilaf with fruit and nuts. 

I only had 3 of these plates.  Honest.

And even though I would rather save room for more food than save room for dessert, there were quite a few who had contributed desserts.  And making desserts that are gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free?  That's a mighty tall order.  So it was particularly important for me to honor their efforts.

And while I know all about failure and the 'A for Effort' look someone gives me when trying a baked good that came out less well than planned, there was absolutely no need for that here.  People who weren't gluten-free were exclaiming how good the desserts were without qualification.  For me, that's always the best compliment, and it was well deserved that evening.

Zucchini Muffins arranged into a Christmas Tree (not an arrow).

Snickerdoodles (made using a recipe courtesy of Little Edie)

Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies

Sweet Potato Chia Pudding Parfait.  Recipe Below!

Afterwards, we all played "Apples to Apples," and for those of us who lasted until the bitter end, the "Michael Jackson Experience."  People kept asking me if I was drinking, and the hopeful way in which they would ask was amusing.  Maybe it's because they were hoping that I didn't actually act that silly sober.  But combine good friends, good food, and an excess of sugar for someone who normally shies away from dessert, and you have a prime recipe for shenanigans.  There was really no way around it.

86 Oranges.

Photobooth Time!
Now as promised, here's the super simple recipe for the sweet potato chia pudding I used in the parfaits.  I drew inspiration from two different recipes, Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding Parfaits from Angela at Oh She Glows and the no-bake filling from Iris's grainless squash pie at The Daily Dietribe.  I had made both recipes, and in discussing them with friends and coworkers, people eyes' would always widen and their ears would perk up at the mention of "chia pudding." So I definitely wanted to make that one of my contributions to the potluck.

As mentioned in the previous post, the parfaits incited plate licking and requests for seconds.  So beyond enjoying this recipe myself, it was a delight to watch others enjoy it as well.  And hopefully after reading this, you'll be able to enjoy it, too.

Vegan Sweet Potato Chia Pudding
(GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)

1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground flax
1 teaspoon whole psyllium husk
3/4 c non-dairy milk
(1) 15 oz can of pureed sweet potato
1/4 c maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.  Combine chia seeds, flax, and psyllium husk with non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened coconut milk beverage) in a small bowl.  Whisk mixture vigorously and then allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes.
2.  In a separate bowl, combine sweet potato, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.  If using pumpkin or squash instead of sweet potato, you may prefer to use more maple syrup.
3.  The chia, flax, and psyllium milk mixture will have thickened and you will notice the chia seeds suspended throughout the milk.  Fold this into the sweet potato mixture.
4.  Cover tightly and chill for at least four hours.  The mixture will continue to thicken and become more pudding-like in consistency.  The longer you leave it, the more pudding-like it becomes.
5.  Serve either on its own, garnish it with whipped cream and toasted nuts, or layer it with cake or cookies to make a parfait or trifle.
6.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Fiber roll call (L to R): flax, chia, & psyllium

Mix to incorporate and then chill.

The finished pudding.  No frog eggs here. :)

Now in looking at the ratios and ingredients, one might think, "Is one teaspoon of chia really enough to call something a 'chia pudding'?"  It is much less than is called for in other recipes out there.  But for me, it just comes down to texture and what I personally prefer.  When immersed in a liquid, chia seeds have a wonderful capacity to absorb that liquid and create a gel-like substance, and thus the "pudding."  But if you use too much, you're left with something that is very similar in both appearance and mouth-feel to a mass of frog eggs.  

I learned that the hard way. Yummm... [cough, cough]

But undeterred, I continued to tinker with the recipe, swapping out some of the chia seeds for ground flax and psyllium husks.  And soon enough, I found the dessert I was searching for.  

In the original pictures, with the parfait served in the oh-so-stylish plastic party cups, I had repurposed a loaf of cinnamon swirl banana bread that had dropped onto the countertop and broken apart.  It wasn't pretty, but it still tasted amazing.  So waste not, want not, right?

I've heard of drop cookies but 'drop cake" is a new to me...

And in the pictures using the wine glass, I layered the sweet potato pudding with an orange spiced teff cake and a crown of Soyatoo soy-free Rice Whip.  After taking the pictures, I gave it a taste and in addition to eyes widening and ears perking up, my tastebuds absolutely sang.  Like, 'Aretha' sang.  So, soon I will also be sharing the teff cake recipe with you.  Just have to make it a few more times. :)

Here one moment...

...gone the next.

Looking back, not only on this gathering, but on the gluten-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving from last year, the common thread was the feeling of security and trust.  Thanksgiving is an opportunity to show those you love how much you care and value their presence in your life.  And through making all these accommodations, it was our way of taking of each other and expressing our appreciation, gratitude, and love.

Birds of a feather do flock together. :)


  1. This recipe sounds very good to me; it has all the elements I like, chia, flax and sweet potato. I watched a video the other day of somebody making a savory pudding of chia by add some to water and then letting it sit and then just adding in some grated ginger and soy sauce. I haven't it tried it myself, but who knows maybe it is yummy, but I will definitely try the sweet potato pudding recipe first. ;)

    I still need to make the almond cranberry chia breads!

    That will be next =)

  2. What? You don't like psyllium? The savory chia pudding definitely sounds interesting - may give that a try.

    Yummmm- almond cranberry chia bread. Looking forward to tasting that this weekend [wink, wink].


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