Simple Sides: A Healthy Chocolate Pudding!
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
The culinary definition of a basic pudding is a mixture of egg yolk, milk, sugar and cornstarch, stirred over a gentle heat until thickened. That being said, a fun way to start this recipe would be to spread out all the ingredients on a cutting board and ask your young kitchen helper(s) to guess what dish is on the menu. The avocadoes make the correct answer of “chocolate pudding” almost impossible to imagine--that is, until that first amazing spoonful!
Not only does this mock pudding taste EXACTY like the real thing, the ingredients replace high-calorie dairy fats and empty sugar carbs with healthy fats and beneficial nutrients. I found this recipe in the course of managing my own low-carb diabetic diet, however the whimsical nature of turning an avocado into chocolate pudding might be just the thing to hold the interest of a child in the kitchen. This is one recipe that demonstrates the term “culinary make-over” in an unusual, healthy and very tasty way! After all, who can resist the prospect of chocolate pudding?
Fat is a major source of energy that helps the body absorb nutrients from foods. However, it's important to understand the difference between two general types of fats - saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are often labeled "bad fats" because they tend to raise "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. This, in turn increases the risk for heart disease. Saturated fats are found in dairy products, processed meat and most flour-based pastries and desserts. Conversely, unsaturated fat tends not to raise the level of LDL ('bad') cholesterol in the blood. Unsaturated fat can help manage blood pressure, increase the absorption of essential vitamins, and lower LDL cholesterol, therefore reducing risk for heart disease. Avocadoes contain 75% unsaturated fat, so can act as a “nutrient booster” by helping increase the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, D, K, and E. So, while I referred to this recipe as being a “mock” pudding, a comparison of the ingredients list with the “real” pudding should lead to this recipe being the only kind of pudding your kids should really be eating!
So how can chocolate anything be healthy? There is a big difference between sugar-based, processed chocolate and unsweetened cocoa powder. In fact, health-wise, cocoa powder is extremely kid-friendly. Unsweetened cocoa powder contains iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. Iron helps make red blood cells. Manganese is a component of enzymes that form cartilage and bones. Magnesium helps produce energy and maintain a normal heart rhythm. Zinc is vital for the production and development of new cells in the immune system; without enough zinc, a child is much more susceptible to illness.
Of course who cares how healthy this pudding is if it also tastes “healthy”, if you know what I mean. A few tablespoons of Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup satisfies the sweet expectations of any dish with chocolate in it. The banana and vanilla extract also add subtle flavor component; the yogurt is really meant to dilute the thick creamy texture of an avocado with just enough lightness to fool the pallet into thinking “pudding” not guacamole—and it works! A sliced up strawberry for garnish is just plain fun, plus garnish should always be included as part of any cooking lesson since eye appeal is just as important as knowing how to prepare a recipe.
Another fun part of this recipe could be serving this “pudding” without any mention of its unusual main ingredient to unknowing members of the family. In fact, just to satisfy my own conviction that this dish was as undetectably delicious as the real thing, I served the dessert to three unsuspecting friends at the conclusion of a small dinner party. All my guests were so skeptical when I revealed the ingredients that I had to whip up a second batch tableside just to prove to them that they were, in fact, eating avocado!
While the simple prep of this dish is mostly measuring all contents into a blender, any time spent in the kitchen, even for a very young aspiring cook, will build culinary confidence that will last a lifetime. Culinary confidence through chocolate pudding…it doesn’t get much better! Enjoy.
2 Hass Avocados, halved and pitted
1 ripe banana, peeled
½ cup premium cocoa powder
2 TBS Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup Unsweetened Dark Cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 TBS non-fat yogurt
Sliced Strawberries (garnish)
What the kids can do:
Scoop out the avocadoes and break up the banana into small chunks – then place both in a blender or food processor.
Measure out and add to the blender the rest of the ingredients, except the strawberries. Puree until smooth. If too thick, add a splash more almond milk until a pudding-like texture is achieved. Taste and adjust agave to desired sweetness.
Divide into four dessert dishes and refrigerate until firm. Garnish each serving with thin-slices of fresh strawberry.
What the supervising adult should do:
Since this recipe does not require cooking it is perfect for a very young child, prepping the avocadoes so they are ready to scoop avoids any need for a knife. A spoon for the avocadoes and little fingers work just fine in breaking up the banana. Or let your help slice the banana with a dull plastic picnic knife for practice until he/she is old enough to use the real thing! The rest of the prep is really just measuring out the ingredients and flipping on a blender or food process. Of course, followed by a lesson in kitchen clean-up including that machine which was so easy to just turn on! If a child is old enough to work in the kitchen, then he/she is old enough to learn to clean up afterwards. Enjoy the pudding!