When I became a vegetarian at age 10, one of the things I was the saddest about giving up was jello. The component in jello that brings it all together and makes it jiggle is gelatin -- and gelatin is derived from animal by-products (usually cows and pigs, although the legend was always that it was made from horse hooves). Back in the day, finding a vegetarian substitute was not that easy. More recently, while reading about macrobiotic cooking, I learned of a very popular dessert recipe called a kanten and was thrilled to discover that the same jello-like texture could be achieved with agar flakes, which are made of seaweed and sea veggies. Don't worry -- the flakes are colorless and tasteless, but they give a wonderful texture to this chilled, kid-friendly dessert.
These "un-jello" jigglers are a fun way to incorporate some of your child's favorite flavors with ones that he might generally steer clear of if they were placed on the dinner plate. He'll still be getting many of the health benefits, but in a bite-sized, fun-shaped form. Think of this recipe as your base and customize it as you'd like. Just juice whatever veggies or fruits you'd like (please purchase organic produce whenever possible) and then follow the directions to make the juice into a lovely kanten or into jigglers. Once you get the hang of it, you can try all sorts of flavors, incorporating coconut milk, chopped fruit, and any other desired ingredients to make an easy snack or dessert that's comforting for kids and adults. I often top a bowl with a little bit of Soyatoo vegan whipped cream for a throwback to the simple dessert of my childhood. Read on for a fun and healthy vegan treat with endless flavor possibilities.
1. Gather the ingredients.
- Fruits such as apples, oranges, tomatoes, lemons, limes, pears
- Veggies such as carrots, beets, spinach, kale
- Agar flakes*
* You will need 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of agar flakes for every cup of juice to make the jigglers. If you are just making a kanten and planning to eat it out of a bowl without the need to cut it into shapes, you can just use 1 tablespoon, since it doesn’t have to be as firm).
Run desired fruits and veggies through the juicer. Juicing is my son’s favorite job (and he will generally drink anything he juices, even if it contains veggies he normally doesn’t care for). To give you a general idea of how much you will be making, in order to make 1 cup of carrot orange juice, we juiced 4 carrots and 1 orange. To make 1 cup of beet/apple/spinach juice, we juiced 1 large apple, 1 small-ish beet, and about 1 1/2 cups spinach. (I also made some with just apple juice and also one with spinach/apple/lime). If using certain citrus fruits, such as lemon, orange, or lime, using a hand juicer is recommended.
3. Add the agar and bring to a boil.
Pour the juice into a small saucepan and sprinkle the agar over it. Without stirring, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Let the mixture boil for about 3-5 minutes, until the agar flakes are gone (you can turn down the heat slightly so as not to reduce the juice too much).
4. Pour into containers and cool in the refrigerator.
Pour the mixture into containers. It will still be very liquid-y, but don’t worry, it will firm up while in the fridge. I used small pyrex containers and also candy molds. Cool, uncovered, in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
5. Cut and serve.
Using a knife, the top of a glass or shot glass, or cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes and sizes of jigglers. If serving as a traditional kanten, you can just scoop into bowls along with fresh fruit. Serve and enjoy! The kantens and jigglers will stay good for up to a week in the fridge in a covered container.