Friday, October 13, 2017

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Layered Pudding.... Mmmmmm!

I know there are some people who completely disregard the fact that some actually have very real symptoms when they consume gluten or dairy. It would be nice if we lived in a world where pesticides and genetic engineering of food, hormone injected cows and the protein from Holsteins, didn't cause reactions in some people. Especially my sister. When my sister eats something containing gluten or dairy, her body is in so much pain she can't get out of bed on her own. My sister is one of the strongest people I know, not to mention considerate, generous and creative. One of her favorite desserts used to be layered pudding. (I've heard it called Four Layer Delight and Possum Pie as well.) Unfortunately, that contains.....

Flour, butter, cream cheese and milk! So, I was determined to create a version that didn't contain gluten or dairy for our early family Thanksgiving when I visited home. I had to start with the base:

For the base, I ground up enough oats to get 1 cup of oat flour and combined that with 1/2 cup of coconut oil and a cup of cut up pecans. I added a dash of almond flavoring.

Of course, coconut oil cooks differently than butter, as it bubbles up a lot more when it bakes, but it came out ok:

The next layer was tricky, a cream cheese layer. I decided to go with a cashew cream cheese. First I soaked the cashews overnight. The next day they were ready to use.

I followed this recipe to make the cheesecake flavored layer. It calls for:
  • 1 1/2 cup of soaked/drained cashews
  • 1/4 cup of lemon
  • 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup agave/maple syrup/honey

 I then blended it to the smoothest consistency I could get, gingerly spread it over the brittle crust and let it chill in the freezer while I worked on the puddings.

I searched through the brands of pudding looking for one that didn't have diary or gluten. Most of them were gluten free, but many contained milk powder; especially for the vanilla flavor. Jello was the brand that didn't have either of the unwanted things. I was planning on making a home-made version with corn starch and coconut milk if I couldn't find one. This is just such a multi-step process, that I was running out of time! However, with the Jello mixes, I used cold coconut milk and let them set. I layered the chocolate pudding over the hardened cashew layer and then returned it to the freezer to chill. When that was hardened, I added the vanilla layer on top. Repeating the freezer step each time proved to be important as they never got all the way firm without it.

The top layer of layered pudding is the whipped cream. I thought store-bought whipped cream was probably just made out of junk and not real milk, but I was wrong. They actually used milk! So, I used this recipe that turns coconut cream into whipped cream. Yummy!
It called for:
  • 1 14 oz. can of (refrigerated overnight) unsweetened coconut milk (I used what we could find in the picture above)
  • 2 Tablespoons of sugar (I omitted this step because what we had was already a bit sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

This was really tasty! I spread it on top of all of the layers and added a few crushed pecans.

There you have it! My dairy-free, gluten-free layered pudding!

I love my sister. I was happy to make something so that there would be a dessert she could eat too. Let me know if you find a better way to make this, but this one turned out really good! It definitely tastes like coconut, but in a delicious way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Moon Festival, or, Mid-Autumn Festival

Wednesday, October 4 2017 was the Moon Festival. Although this is typically a Chinese/Vietnamese celebration called Mid-Autumn Festival, many people in Cambodia have adopted it and I've only heard it called Moon Festival. "Who doesn't want another holiday to eat cake?" was the reason my neighbor gave me.

I noticed something new hanging over their door, but didn't know what it was until a few days later when the neighbor's daughter came out with something white in her hands. The neighborhood kids have been playing with pieces of Styrofoam lately, so I thought that's what she had. When she started to eat it, I hurried to ask her mom if it was Styrofoam. It turns out it was Moon Cake.
"Mid-Autumn was first celebrated as a festival during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). Like the emperors, ancient people believed worshipping the moon and eating together round a table would bring them good luck and happiness."

Suddenly, little things I had been seeing around town began to make more sense. In the little market near our house, there was a giant, circle cake with Chinese characters on top in front of a shrine in the back. (Compared to the entire giant pig at New Year, I thought that was quite tame.) My neighbor said the Moon Festival is a time when the family will get together and eat and then they wake up at midnight and say a prayer to the moon for health and wealth.

Another friend said that while there are many Chinese people in Cambodia who celebrate Chinese holidays, typically Vietnamese and Chinese celebrate the same holidays, while Thailand and Cambodia celebrate the same Buddhist holidays.

The Moon Festival was something I had never heard of before, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pchum Ben 2017

I’m so thankful that I was able to fly to the States for Pchum Ben this year. Ever since Zoe was born in Cambodia we’ve been trying to figure out a good time to introduce her to family in the States. We wanted to do that while she was still a baby... and she’s growing so fast it felt like time was running out. She is more social than some babies I’ve introduced (cough*Elias*cough) to family. Look how she’s studying Papa!

It was so nice to be in Texas again.

Of course, it’s easier to just sleep than be social.

How much loving is too much?

She sure has a lot of people who love her.

So now she’s met her Mississippi family and Texas family, all before she’s quite walking. That counts, right?

We are so blessed to have most of our great grandparents for our children still alive.

We even got to attend a cousin’s wedding and see more grandparents and relatives there.

Besides the people, it was nice to see green grass!

Zoe loved exploring this new green stuff.

But coming home to the loves we couldn’t afford to fly with us was special too. Now the balance is between appreciating the opportunity to go home and battling the homesickness that surges afterwards. I actually got published on this topic on a website dedicated to helping expat Christian women. I don't share this to say I am anything, but maybe my hard-to-learn-lesson about homesickness will help you too:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Birthday Surprise: Blooms, Phnom Penh Cupcakery

The weekend before Talia's 10th birthday we went to Kid City in Aeon mall. Ben had looked up what Kid city had to offer and saw a rock climbing gym and science lab. We walked all over Aeon trying to find those as she loves both science and climbing. Ben finally asked the people at the soft play area of Kid City where that was and we found out that there's another Kid City... not in the mall... on the other side of town. Everyone enjoyed the playground that was available, however, and had a great time. On her actual birthday she got to have a pizza date with Ben.
She was embarrassed when they played her the birthday song and gave her a slice of Oreo cheesecake to share in front of everybody, but she enjoyed her prize as long as we were trying it. She's very uncomfortable with keeping something yummy to herself. We didn't mind tasting a little either. ;)

A few days later, her friends took her to Blooms, a cupcake restaurant in Phnom Penh that helps train women and gives them a job. For the business part of Talia's homeschool she  wanted to actually run a business. She decided to focus on cupcakes and make a website and YouTube channel about making cupcakes from whichever part of the world we happen to be in. Her fellow homeschool friends knew this, so Blooms was a great place to investigate!

 As soon as we entered the restaurant we were greeted by a gargantuan decorated styrofoam wedding cake. It was taller than we were! The case was full of fancy cakes decorated in Noah's ark, super heroes, Disney tales and much more. Then we got to the counter and had to choose which cupcake to try. There were many!
Talia chose a rainbow cupcake, dressed in her favorite colors of lime green, purple and blue; it was fitting.
I chose a salted caramel-stuffed chocolate cupcake with cheesecake icing. 

I'll just say: one is plenty for one day! They were delicious!
Plus, look at the cute decorations. This one was a jam-filled "doughnut" cupcake.
Besides cupcakes, her friends have her gifts of beginners knitting supplies; something she's been asking for for a long time. 

Talia is very blessed with friends and family and she fills our lives in return with love and laughter. Welcome to the double digits, Talia! We love you!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Double Digits! An Interview with a Nomadic Child

I can't believe the not-even-2-year-old we took with us as an only child has now transitioned into double digits and many more countries and siblings. In honor of her birthday, I interviewed her on her favorite and least favorite things about being a nomadic child and each country she has lived in.

 Do you remember anything about Guatemala? That's where you were 2-3 years old.
  • I remember playing with sidewalk chalk and one time watching the ashes from a volcano explosion. I remember playing in a kid blow up pool. I remember Blanca; I miss her.

  • I did not like that in the rainy season it rained so much our food or clothes got moldy easily.

 What are your memories from Ruwais and Abu Dhabi?

  • I loved Abu Dhabi! There were lots of nice parks, the streets were really clean and the people were nice and the houses were big and clean. It was easy to make friends there. My friends Jaden, Tasneem and Elias live there.
  • I sort of enjoyed the heat, but I didn't like the call to prayer. It was long and mournful and it felt creepy.

Do you remember visiting Spain and Portugal?
  • YES! I liked the greenery and the farms, fruits and vegetables! And there was a mouse that ran up the wall of our cabin, in Portugal. I sort of liked him! 
  • In Spain it was hard for us to get food at our normal supper time. 

How about San José del Cabo, Mexico?
  • I liked Cabo because I met the best friend I've ever had there, Melissa. It had a nice climate and we could go to the beach!! There were several beaches close to where we lived. I liked the food, too! We never rode a horse on the beach, but we saw them several times and if we go back there I would like to ride one. I liked that they spoke Spanish, and I could communicate easily.

  • There wasn't very much grass and it was really rocky in our yard, so we had to be careful when we ran and played.

What do you think about our current country of residence, Cambodia?

  • People are really nice here and I like all of the new fruits. Things are cheaper here compared to other parts of the world.  
  • There is a lot of air pollution and trash everywhere. And they dry rotten/fermented fish outside and it smells really bad! 

  What are some benefits to traveling around the world?
  • We get to learn lots of new things and see new places instead of staying in one place our whole lives like a toad on a log. We get to learn new languages and try new foods and make new friends.

What is something you don't like about traveling?
  • As soon as I make friends, somebody moves away. I miss my family in my home country.
Which countries are you interested in visiting again/next?
  • I would really like to visit Sweden! They have lingonberries, fikka, foraging and snow! 
  • I would like to go back to Portugal. I like all of the natural parks and hiking trails and animals. 


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Morning Glory/Water Spinach, Vietnamese Persimmons/Golden Apple and Guava: New-to-us Khmer Food

I've learned several new fruits and vegetables lately. I thought I'd share them with you.
Below you see the water lily stems that take special talent to harvest. When you pinch off the stem, if you are not careful, mud will be drawn up the stalk. The Khmer lady who sells these has four children depending on her at home and something happened to her husband. She walks around town with a big basket of these carried on her head calling out the name of them in Khmer. Our neighbor said she uses these to make a salad with thin strips of the water lily stem, chicken, lime juice and herbs.

Water spinach, or morning glory, are the stems of the sweet potato plant. They are used in soup the same way you would use spinach and with a similar taste. Many times it is used in a soup with rice noodles.

I had no clue what these were when my friend gave them to us. My Vietnamese friend helped me out with the Latin name: Diospyros decandra, or a type of persimmon. One way the Khmer eat these is with the flesh mashed in a mixture of milk, sugar, and chia or basil seeds. The pulp is pretty astringent in the mouth, so all of that can be pretty necessary!

Here you see a guava. These were really popular in Mexico, but the ones I saw were smaller, many times made into preserves. Here guava is enjoyed dipped in salt, sometimes with garlic powder, chili or sugar.
The kids all tried a bite and thought it was good, but even better, the pasabulong from our Filipina friends who came home from holiday and were so kind to think of us:
The biscocho is from Iloilo and the piaya is from Negros Occidental.
Yep, it was yummy!
Elias had fun trying on his father's shirt... it'll be a few years before it fits.
The boys love to help cook! Here they were making cinnamon rolls:

One of them wants to be a fireman who owns a restaurant on the side when he grows up. The other one wants to build "helico'ters." I can't wait to see what they become!