It was my birthday middle of last week, so I made this tapioca pudding for an easy midweek celebration. The great thing about this pudding is that it's a breeze to whip up on a weeknight, but it feels elegant and special with the flavors of cardamom, honey, pistachio, and rose water (optional), making it just as worthy for a dinner party. It requires only one pot start to finish, and it cooks in 10 minutes. I use pearled tapioca (not instant) for the texture, and my trick for quick cooking is soaking the tapioca. The morning of as I prepare breakfast, I simply add it to soak in the same pot I'll later use for cooking. I forget about it until after dinner, at which point I add more coconut milk and water, cook for 10 minutes, stir in flavorings, and serve. Double points that this is egg and dairy-free for all to enjoy. The coconut milk makes this incredibly rich and creamy, and its flavor disappears behind the other flavors. I also give you the option to add arrowroot (or cornstarch) to thicken it further, if desired.
Since I'm sharing a dessert this week, I thought I'd check in to see how you and your sugar cravings are doing. Under control…out of control…depends on the day? I've given several cooking workshops recently on this sugar cravings topic, and I didn't want you to miss out entirely on the fun. So I'm sharing two unique but key insights that are not usually talked about online, but that have been immensely instrumental in helping me and my clients get to the bottom of our cravings.
Cravings are a sign of imbalance
You might be surprised to hear that cravings are not our enemy. They're our ally, in fact - a message from our body telling us something is out of balance. However, we often misinterpret this message as our body needing chocolate, chips, or ice cream. And it needing these foods at exact times of the day: after lunch, mid-afternoon, after dinner, watching TV, studying, or just before bed. How dare our body be so demanding!
This sounds familiar though, doesn't it?!
But the source of cravings is not always nutritionally driven. Although a gut imbalance or micronutrient deficiencies such as low magnesium or iron can cause our bodies to crave sugar, most commonly I find that food is just the symptom - the scapegoat for an underlying problem. The real problem often stems from an emotional or physical need: boredom, anxiety, frustration, stress, loneliness, lack of movement or connection with others. Are we eating the same meals week after week? Are we working long hours or traveling a lot without allowing time to recharge? Have we been sitting at the computer all day without taking a substantial break? Did we just have an argument with a friend, partner, or coworker?
Our response to a craving is a habit
I don't mean to oversimplify the solution here, but this is an important piece to cracking the cravings code. How we respond to our cravings can either smother or fuel the cravings fire. We have been half-consciously breaking off squares of chocolate, scooping out ice cream, grabbing a cookie on our way in from a walk, and conveniently passing by the bakery out of routine for so long that our actions are on auto-pilot. We don't even believe we have a choice in how we respond, much less give ourselves the chance to respond differently.
The good news is that once we acknowledge WE have created a habitual response to our cravings, two things will happen:
- We realize we also have the ability to create a more favorable response - a new habit.
- And when we acknowledge we can create a new habit, we realize we do have a choice in how we respond. That we can be in control of, rather than powerless to, our cravings. This may mean we still choose to eat the chocolate, but now we choose it consciously. Making conscious choices (and eating consciously) gives us ownership over our actions and releases us from the self-shame, blame, and guilt cycle that perpetuates our cravings dilemma in the first place.
There's no magic bullet or quick-fix solution to tackling cravings. But awareness of imbalance on our plates and in our lives and embracing the power of choice are the first steps to cracking the cravings code. When we're willing to become our own detective and tune into our body and the rhythms, routines, and thought patterns that play on repeat day after day, we'll discover something new. The blinders that keep us going through the same motions will come down, and we'll observe our environment with a fresh perspective. Clues of imbalance are all around us if we're willing to look.
Moving through our days consciously is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. Because living consciously and reacting impulsively cannot co-exist. When we're fully aware, we naturally create space between the impulse to respond in a certain way and the response itself. And this space is what allows us to choose differently.
(For more on creating this space, see the PAUSE formula in my Comfort Food, Redefined series.)
Cardamom, Honey and Pistachio Tapioca Pudding
Notes: For quick cooking soak tapioca for 8 hours: I like to start mine soaking the morning of, until dinner time. If you forget to soak or soak for a shorter time, cooking time will increase to 15-20 minutes. The coconut milk and starch from the tapioca pearls thicken the pudding. It will be a looser consistency when still warm, but it thickens as it cools. If you're making this in advance to serve chilled, it should be the right consistency without adding extra thickener. If you want to eat it warm straight away and prefer it thicker, stir in arrowroot (or cornstarch) as directed below.
- 1/3 cup (65 gr) small pearl tapioca
- 500 ml unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (2 cups), divided
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- 1/2 tsp - 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 1 tsp. arrowroot (or cornstarch) mixed in a small bowl with 1 Tbsp. water (optional)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract, paste, or powder
- 3 Tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. rose water (optional)
- Handful pistachios, roughly chopped
- In a medium heavy-bottom pot, soak tapioca in 1 cup (240 ml) coconut milk for 8 hours (all day or overnight).
- Add remaining milk, water, salt, and cardamom to the soaked tapioca (do NOT drain soaking milk).
- Place pot over medium-high heat, cover, and bring mixture to gentle boil (this doesn't take long). Reduce heat to a simmer (medium heat) and cook 5-10 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently. The mixture will pop and splatter and likely stick to the bottom if you don't keep stirring.
- If you want it thicker, stir in arrowroot mixture and cook 5 more minutes, or until thickened slightly.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, honey, and rose water. Serve topped with chopped pistachios. Either serve warm, immediately, or place in the fridge to chill for a few hours.