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Vegan Eggnog: Coconutnog -- or Vegan Holiday Pina Colada

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Like many things in my life, the story of my college education is somewhat complicated. I started out at UCLA because I was eligible for in-state tuition...but LA wasn't a great fit for me and when I went to England my junior year, I fell in love with the country (and an Englishman) and ended up graduating there instead.

I'm not a sports buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly am nostalgic and UCLA was two years of my to this day, I continue to monitor sporting events with the pride of an alum even though technically I am not.

College football fans may know that this weekend was the UCLA-USC game, which - even though the PAC-10 doesn't seem to get a lot of respect conference-wise - is still a big deal to those of us who went to school in Southern California.

And it just so happens that one of my colleagues is a USC grad, so when I asked her about her weekend plans on Friday, she said, "Well, there's a big game this weekend."

"Oh! Is that the UCLA game?" I asked.

"That's right!" she said. "I forgot you were a little Bruin trash whore."

This particular colleague also knows of my vegan baking endeavors and so to punctuate the smack talk at the end of the day, she challenged me: "Perhaps you should try making vegan eggnog this weekend, too."

Despite my bravado - and as much as I love a good underdog story (like those New York Giants last year), I was fairly certain the Bruins were outmatched this year (That 59-0 BYU loss wasn't a good omen). But even though I couldn't help ol' Blue and Gold out on the field, there was one thing I could do: I could make vegan eggnog on behalf of Bruin fans everywhere. I'd show her - and all those smug Trojans - that we Bruins (or half-Bruins) are a resourceful bunch. And, they may beat us at the Rose Bowl, but they can't squash our spirit and, by god, we can make vegan eggnog.

However, I'm not exactly an eggnog buff, before attempting anything, I wanted to find a solid recipe on which to base a vegan version.

I found the problem with searching for "eggnog" on recipe Web sites is that there's a lot of other eggnog-flavored stuff out there. An "eggnog" search on Epicurious, for example, turns up French toast, flan, cake, torte, ice cream, trifle, crème brulee and custard in addition to basic drink recipes.

Epicurious' two drink recipes both happen to hail from the November 1973 House & Garden Drink Guide. Neither seemed to suit my purposes though. One didn't have any booze (which a friend said meant it didn't count as real eggnog) and the other called for 12 eggs and 3 pints of milk in addition to brandy, light rum, and peach brandy. It also yielded 30 servings. And even though I could have halved or quartered it, it just didn't seem like the right recipe for me to play around with.

So...I turned once again to my cookbook collection and it was the Joy of Cooking that saved the day. It offers both uncooked eggnog ("a rich and extravagant version") and cooked eggnog that it says "kills any possibly dangerous bacteria in the eggs." Of the two, the cooked version appealed to me more because the first called for yolks and whites and seemed too complicated to replicate.

The other version was more straightforward: milk, heavy cream, egg, sugar, nutmeg and brandy. It seemed feasible that I could plug in vegan replacements for the milk, cream and egg and end up with a decent vegan nog.

I had stocked up on cream of coconut during my last grocery store run (but this time I bought the Coco Lopez brand because I thought it sounded kind of fun) and as I contemplated mixing it with soy milk and blended silken tofu, I actually wondered, "Is it okay to drink cream of coconut?" before realizing what a stupid question that was as there is a toucan with a tropical drink on the label.

It really was quite simple after that. I halved the cooked eggnog recipe (and decided not to bother cooking it as there was no dangerous egg bacteria to worry about) and poured half a cup of soy milk, half a cup of coconut cream, one and a half cups of blended silken tofu, about half a cup of sugar and half a teaspoon of nutmeg in a blender. After mixing it all up, I added an additional cup each of milk and coconut cream (which used up the whole can and was absolutely perfect) and three-quarters of a cup of brandy. It didn't smell quite right, so I felt compelled to add some cinnamon, although I can't really explain why as none of the eggnog recipes I came across called for a spice other than nutmeg. Just in case, I warned my friend that it might be strange and/or not eggnog-like at all.

But it wasn't. It was actually quite good. I thought the texture was spot-on and my friend said it reminded her of a "winterized pina colada."

It was indeed holiday-ish -- perhaps because of the cinnamon? Or the cinnamon and nutmeg in unison? And it was definitely still maybe with ice on the next go-round, you'd actually have something like a vegan holiday pina colada? Which would maybe be a nice nod to tropical drinks in the dead of winter? Because not all of us live in Southern California?

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